Is Chickenpox More Common in the Spring?

Scientists conducted a study trying to answer the question: is chickenpox more common in the spring? Keep reading to learn more.
Is Chickenpox More Common in the Spring?

Last update: 08 September, 2021

Chickenpox is a very common disease that especially affects young children. Because of that, many parents are cautious in the winter and spring, when this disease is more common. But, why is chickenpox more common in the spring?

Its tendency to spread in the spring may seem counterintuitive. After all, with the exception of allergies and some other illnesses, most seasonal diseases peak in the autumn and winter.

Facts about chickenpox

Before taking a look at why chickenpox is more common in the spring, it’s necessary to know a little more about this condition. Let’s look at the information below:

  • Chickenpox is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This pathogen has a double-stranded DNA molecule. Also, it’s genetically related to the herpes simplex virus.
  • According to the health portal of the Community of Madrid, chickenpox is a classic childhood disease. And, unless children are vaccinated, they’re likely to get this disease before adolescence. 
  • This virus is only transmitted from person to person. This could be from direct contact with skin rashes, or from coughing and sneezing. Also, it’s quite contagious. Scientists have detected that 80 to 90% of those who are around a patient can get it.
  • The characteristic symptoms of this disease is the appearance of blisters all over the body, which tend to be very itchy.

Now that we know the causes of this virus, we’re going to look at a scientific article that tries to link the spread of chickenpox with changes in temperature.

what is a virus

Effect of temperature on chickenpox

In 2012, the medical the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published an interesting study about chickenpox.

  • They looked at the number of daily visits by patients with chickenpox and herpes-zoster at a hospital in China between 2008 and 2010. They recorded a total of 3,520 patients with chickenpox and 6,614 with herpes-zoster.
  • Then, they collected climatic variables every day from a meteorological station near the hospital. They looked at maximum and minimum temperatures, average temperate and average humidity.
  • The scientists used statistical models to predict the relationship between both variables (number of infections and weather).

The results were, to say the least, counterintuitive. They observed that, for each degree the mean temperature increased, the number of patients with chickenpox decreased by 1.33%. However, those with herpes zoster increased by 2.18%.

The relationships between both parameters are very complex since both diseases are related. After all, shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus. 

Is chickenpox more common in the spring?

So, is chickenpox more common in the spring? The results can be very confusing. Scientists have observed that chickenpox is seasonal, and, in many places, there are high peaks during the spring. Therefore, the fact that its incidence decreases with increasing temperatures isn’t actually that strange. However, scientists do have some reservations. We’ve detailed them below:

  • The incubation period for chickenpox is 10 to 21 days. Therefore, the transmission mechanism may be at peak levels in late winter, but symptoms won’t appear until well into the first month of spring.
  • They conducted the study in one single hospital. Therefore, we shouldn’t take the results as 100% trustworthy. 
  • Other research suggests that the transmission dynamics of shingles and chickenpox may be affected by vaccination schedules.
A baby with chickenpox.

  • Herpes-zoster remains latent in the body after chickenpox. Sudden changes in temperature could affect the immune system and lower its effectiveness. This lowered efficacy could give the virus a change to reactivate during the spring.
  • The combination of high temperatures and ultraviolet rays from the sun could induce the suppression of immunity at the cellular level. Therefore, it’s easier for the virus to make the patient symptomatic. 

So, what’s the clearest answer to the question “is chickenpox more common in the spring?” It’s not entirely clear why chickenpox shows certain peaks in spring. 

It seems that an increase in temperature reduces its transmission. However, dynamics with the reactivation of herpes-zoster, vaccination schedules, and changes in human habits can also greatly alter this epidemiological condition.

It might interest you...
Hepatitis in Children: What You Need to Know
Step To HealthRead it in Step To Health
Hepatitis in Children: What You Need to Know

Hepatitis in children may manifest itself with fever, belly pain, and weight loss. It can be difficult to detect in the early stages.