Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about chickenpox. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Chickenpox. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Help children understand how their bodies grow, change, and adapt. Our bodies fight off germs and illnesses without our even knowing it. Still, sometimes we get sick! We might catch a cold, come down with the flu, or even get chickenpox. This movie will teach about chickenpox—its causes, symptoms, and treatment—and how to avoid spreading or catching the illness. You may wish to explore the Colds and Flu movie first to build on knowledge and use the Washing Hands topic as an extension.

Explain to children that a virus is a type of germ that can spread inside living things and cause illnesses. Colds and flu are caused by viruses. Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Review with children that the chickenpox virus enters the body and starts growing and spreading. Our bodies’ immune systems are in charge of fighting off sickness and keeping us healthy. Remind children that while our bodies work hard to protect us, we can feel sick and experience different symptoms. A symptom is a change in the body caused by an illness. Together, brainstorm symptoms of common illnesses, like colds and flu. Invite children to discuss how they felt the last time they caught a cold. What happened? Children may have had a fever or felt hot, they might have had a sore throat or a headache, and they probably coughed and sneezed. They might have had a runny or stuffy nose or body aches and pains. Explain to children that these symptoms usually aren’t dangerous; they’re just signs that their bodies are working hard to fight off the illness.

Teach children about the symptoms of chickenpox. The early signs are very similar to cold symptoms—headache, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, or runny or stuffy nose. A few days later, small red spots start to show up, usually on the chest. These spots may spread to other parts of the body. The spots form blisters, which eventually break and ooze pus. Then gradually, they heal over with scabs. Some children get sores all over their bodies, while others just get a few sores. Explain to children that while the sores are uncomfortable and look or feel scary, they are a normal part of the illness. Chickenpox blisters tend to be very itchy and irritated. It is very important for children to not scratch. Scratching can tear the skin and lead to infections, which can cause complications.

Discuss different ways to alleviate chickenpox symptoms. A doctor may recommend or prescribe pain relievers to soothe headaches or antihistamines to relieve the itching sensation. A doctor may also prescribe or recommend special ointments and lotions to calm itchy sores. Cool oatmeal or baking soda baths can also provide itching relief and help patients feel more comfortable. Remind children that they should only take medicine under adult supervision. You may want to explore the Medicine movie to review. Most children get over the chickenpox after a week or so.

Explain that like colds and flu, chickenpox is contagious. The virus can spread through the air via mucus and saliva, as when someone sneezes or coughs. Open blisters ooze pus that carries the varicella-zoster virus, so coming in physical contact with the pus can transfer the virus. Since sores and rashes don’t show up until later, children can spread the virus without even knowing it. Brainstorm different ways to stop the spread of germs. Children can wash their hands before and after they eat or use the bathroom, and cover their noses and mouths when they sneeze or cough. Explain that keeping everyone healthy is everyone’s responsibility.

In the United States, many children get vaccinated against chickenpox. Remind children that a vaccine is a shot that prevents you from getting sick in the future. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 90% of children in the U.S. aged 19 to 35 months received one dose of the varicella vaccine in 2010. Since the vaccine became available in 1995, cases have significantly decreased. From 2000 to 2010, incidences declined 82%. Likewise, cases of hospitalizations and deaths also declined. Vaccinating children has also benefitted infants, who are too young to receive the vaccination—cases of chickenpox in infants decreased by 90% from 1995 to 2008. Children who have received the vaccination can still come down with the virus, but usually the symptoms are generally milder and the recovery is faster.

Finally, remind children that chickenpox does not come from chickens! No one knows for sure how chickenpox got its name. It may be because the red spots look like pecks from a chicken or that people long ago mistakenly believed the disease originated from chickens.

Filed as:  Be Well, Chickenpox, Health, K-3