Can You Get Chicken Pox a Second Time?

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

Can you get chickenpox a second time?

Doctor's response

That is a good question (and not at all an easy or simple one). To answer it, we would make three points:

  1. Normally you only get chickenpox once because the virus responsible for it elicits a powerful immune reaction that is highly protective against symptomatic reinfection, preventing another bout of chickenpox.
  2. Repeat bouts of chickenpox can, however, occur in persons with severe disease of their immune system. For examples, in children and adults who are being immunosuppressed for a transplant or who have AIDS.
  3. Shingles are a special story. The varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox (varicella) can later be reactivated and cause shingles (zoster). Shingles are rare in children and become more common in adults with age. (Read our full medical article on Shingles)

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Reviewed on 2/14/2018