Where does chickenpox start? Advisers tell NHS to give toddlers chickenpox jab

A child infected with chickenpox  (PA)
A child infected with chickenpox (PA)

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the NHS that all children in the UK should receive a chickenpox vaccination between the ages of 12 and 18 months.

It is now up to the government to have the last say over whether to include it in the regular vaccinations given to kids for protection.

Until recently, the majority of parents needed to pay up to £200 and visit a private doctor to shield their child against the virus that causes red, itchy rashes.

A brief catch-up programme has also been suggested by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation for slightly older children who were not included in the original rollout.

Due to social distancing measures, the number of cases of chickenpox during the Covid pandemic decreased; consequently, a greater number of youngsters than usual are at risk of contracting the extremely contagious virus.

If you contract chickenpox as an adult or a teen instead of a small child, the illness may be more severe.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam from the UK Health Security Agency said: "Introducing a vaccine against chickenpox would prevent most children getting what can be quite a nasty illness - and for those who would experience more severe symptoms, it could be a lifesaver.

"The JCVI's recommendations will help make chickenpox a problem of the past and bring the UK into line with a number of other countries that have well-established programmes."

What is chickenpox?

The illness is a common one that mostly affects children, but you can get it at any age.

It usually gets better after one or two weeks.

What are the signs and symptoms?

An itchy, spotty rash is the main symptom of chickenpox and it can be anywhere on the body - including on the inside of the mouth and on the genitals.

Getting the spots is the first symptom and these may stay in one area or spread to different parts of the body.

The spots are usually pink or red in colour but can be harder to see on darker complexions.

As time goes on, the spots will become blisters and may then burst before becoming a scab which can also be itchy.

At a point before or during the illness, sufferers might experience a high temperature, aches and pains, a loss of appetite and a general feeling of poor health.

Adults usually have a high temperature for longer and more spots than children.

Is it contagious?

Chickenpox can spread easily from person to person.

It is unusual but not unheard of to get chickenpox more than once.

How to treat chicken pox

If you or your child has chickenpox you should stay at home and away from school or work until the spots have formed a scab - which is usually five days later.

During the period of illness, sufferers are advised to drink lots of water, take paracetamol, dress in loose clothing and bathe in cool water.

You will not need to see a doctor or call 111 unless in great difficulty or if symptoms persist.