Smallpox - Symptoms

What were the symptoms of your smallpox?

Share your story with others:

MedicineNet appreciates your comment. Your comment may be displayed on the site and will always be published anonymously.Patient Comments FAQs

Enter your Comment

Tell us a bit about your background to make your comments more useful to other MedicineNet users. (Optional)

Screen Name: *

Gender of Patient: Male Female

Age Range of Patient:

I am a: Patient Caregiver

* Screen Name will appear next to the published comment. Please do not include your full name or email address.

By submitting your comment, and other materials (collectively referred to as a "Submission") to MedicineNet, you grant MedicineNet permission to use, copy, transmit, publish, display, edit and modify your Submission in connection with its Web site. MedicineNet will not pay you for your Submission. You represent that you have all rights necessary for MedicineNet to use your Submission as set forth above.

Please keep these guidelines in mind when writing your comment:

  • Please make sure you address the question asked.
  • Due to the overwhelming number of comments received, not all comments will be published.
  • When selecting comments to publish, our staff will choose those that are educational and complement the topic. Please try to stay on topic.
  • Your comment may be edited. We would typically edit comments to make them clearer and more readable. We will remove personal information such as last names, email and web addresses, and other potentially harmful information.
  • We will not notify you if your comment has been published. We suggest that you check back on the topic article regularly.
  • We do not provide medical or healthcare advice, treatment, or diagnosis.

Thank you for participating!

I have read and agree to abide by the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and the MedicineNet Privacy Policy (required).

To prevent our systems from spam, please complete the following prior to submitting your comment.

Please select the black triangle:

What are smallpox symptoms and signs?

Symptoms develop seven to 17 days after exposure. Fever is the most common initial symptom and can be quite high. This is accompanied by body aches. Often, the patient is too unwell to get out of bed. Within 24 to 48 hours, a rash begins to appear everywhere on the body but especially on the legs, arms, mouth, and face. The eyes may also be affected, leading to potential blindness among survivors. Symptoms in children are similar to adults. The rash also appears on the palms and soles and goes through stages as the disease progresses. At the beginning, the rash consists of red dots that become raised. The lesions (see Figure 1) rapidly fill with fluid resembling a blister or cold sore and are known as "vesicles." The fluid in the vesicles may turn yellow, resembling pus. Rarely, the rash may start to fill with blood (hemorrhagic smallpox), which is a poor prognostic sign. After one to two weeks, the lesions scab over and eventually fall off, leaving deep scars. One of the defining features of smallpox is that all the lesions on the body are always at the same stage of development. This is in contrast to chickenpox where new lesions form while old ones are healing.

Picture of smallpox in a young child.
Figure 1: Picture of smallpox in a young child. SOURCE: Dr. Michael Schwartz/CDC

Approximately one-third of people with smallpox died from the infection. People who had an extensive rash were at higher risk to die. People who had only a few lesions or a milder rash had a lower risk of death. Infections caused by the variola minor strain were less severe and death occurred in only approximately 1% of cases.

Return to Smallpox


Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors