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 or shinglesSharing 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
especially those born prematurely, under 1 month old, or whose mothers had never contracted chickenpox prior to pregnancyPeople with a weakened immune systemPeople with cancerPregnant womenPeople who are taking immunosuppressant drugsPeople who are moderately or severely ill and are not yet fully recoveredPeople who have certain disorders affecting the blood, bone marrow, or lymphatic system
If you are not immune to chickenpox, traveling abroad can increase your risk of contracting chickenpox. The disease is much more prevalent outside the US because of lower rates of vaccination.
Chickenpox (varicella). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
Updated November 18, 2014. Accessed February 29, 2016.
Daley AJ, Thorpe S, Garland SM. Varicella and the pregnant woman: prevention and management.
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Varicella: historical perspective and clinical overview.
J Infect Dis. 1996;174(Suppl):S306-S309.
Last reviewed February 2016 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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