Why Do Some People Get Chickenpox Twice?

Children typically build up a lifelong immunity to chickenpox (varicella) after getting an infection and don't get it again. But parents may still wonder whether their child might get this infection twice, and whether vaccination is recommended after a child has a case of varicella.

reasons for getting chicken pox twice

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Risk Factors

There are some situations in which a child might get chickenpox more than once, including:

  • Getting their first case of chickenpox when they were very young, especially if they were younger than 6 months old
  • Having a very mild or subclinical infection the first time
  • Developing a problem with their immune system

Vaccination After Chickenpox Infection

Although most children who get chickenpox are considered naturally immune and don't need to get a chickenpox vaccine, you might consider getting them vaccinated if they were very young or had a very mild case of chickenpox. That should hopefully keep most of these kids from having it again.

And with so many kids having been vaccinated, there are also fewer folks around to expose an immunocompromised child or adult to chickenpox. Those factors make it even less likely for a child to get a repeat infection.

chickenpox diagnosis
© Verywell, 2018 

Incidence of Second Cases

According to the CDC, "Immunity following varicella infection is considered to be long-lasting and second cases of varicella are thought to be rare. However, second cases may occur more commonly among immunocompetent persons than previously considered."

So if it is so uncommon, why might a child still get chickenpox twice? One common reason for a child to have a second attack of chickenpox is simply because the first case, or maybe the second case, was really something else that was misdiagnosed as chickenpox.

Although a full-blown case of chickenpox is hard to miss, other viral infections and even insect bites can be misdiagnosed as mild cases of chickenpox, especially by non-medical personnel, including parents and day care workers.

Testing for chickenpox is rarely required, but there are tests that can confirm if a child has chickenpox. These can be helpful in mild cases or when a child has a suspected second case of chickenpox.

Tests for chickenpox can include:

  • PCR or DFA of cellular matter from an unroofed vesicle
  • Viral culture of fluid from chickenpox lesion
  • IgG and IgM antibody levels

Fortunately, with the rise in the use of chickenpox vaccine, the incidence of first and second cases of chickenpox is much less common these days.

Later in life, some people who have had chickenpox will develop shingles, a related condition. A shingles vaccine is available to people age 50 and older.

Chicken Pox Doctor Discussion Guide

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Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chickenpox vaccination: what everyone should know. Updated August, 2019