A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop chickenpox with or without some of the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing chickenpox. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
If you are not immune to chickenpox, factors that will increase your risk of contracting the disease include:
- Coming in direct contact with someone infected with chickenpox
- Sharing eating utensils or other personal items with someone who has chickenpox
Some populations are at a higher risk for chickenpox, these include:
Persons of any age who have neither had chickenpox in the past nor been
against chickenpox (varicella)
especially those born prematurely, under 1 month old, or whose mothers had never contracted chickenpox prior to pregnancy
- People with a weakened immune system (chemotherapy, HIV, AIDS, congenital or acquired immunodeficiencies)
- People with cancer
- Pregnant women
- People who are taking immunosuppressant drugs (such as high-dose steroids)
- People who are moderately or severely ill and are not yet fully recovered
- People who have certain disorders affecting the blood, bone marrow, or lymphatic system
- Susceptible pregnant women
If you are not immune to chickenpox, traveling abroad can increase your risk of contracting chickenpox. The disease is much more prevalent outside the United States due to much lower rates of vaccination.
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The Long: Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 3rd ed 2008 Churchill Livingstone.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
Varicella: historical perspective and clinical overview.
J Infect Dis. 1996;174(Suppl):S306-309.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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