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Shari Lewis: My love, I think you've got the chicken pox.
Lamb Chop: Let's give it back to the chickens!
Lamb Chop's Play-Along, "Chicken Pox"
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This is a subtrope of the Sick Episode where characters suffer from chickenpox, breaking out in little red bumps and developing an uncontrollable itch. These bumps are usually depicted as tiny polka dots, often visually closer to the more serious disease of measles, but some works (particularly Gross Out Shows) will make the pox appear more blistery and realistic. Whether they exhibit any other symptoms, like a fever, fatigue, or headache, is up to the work. Either way, they'll have to get lots of rest, probably wearing gloves to avoid scratching themselves raw and slathering themselves in oh-so-soothing calamine lotion, and possibly having an oatmeal bath. Sometimes, a character may try to catch the disease so that they can take time off school.

As chickenpox is often regarded as a common "childhood" illness, these characters are almost always guaranteed to be young children. The disease has higher risks for adults, so a common angle for this plot is parents getting their young children to catch it early and develop an immunity to it, often by hosting a "chickenpox party" with an infected person. However, the popularization of the chickenpox vaccine has made the idea of a chickenpox party a Discredited Trope, except among people opposed to vaccination. The fact that the disease is no longer as common as it used to be (in the United States, a recent study estimated that symptomatic cases of the disease had reduced by over 90% thanks to vaccination) means that this trope is also found increasingly in older works, as a story about it isn't likely to seem relevant to modern-day children.note 

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Another common angle is wordplay on the name of the disease, with young characters assuming it has something to do with chickens. In some works, chickenpox may actually turn the character into a chicken, whether they develop the rash first or not. As for the real origin of the "chicken" in "chickenpox," there's no confirmed answer, just a few theoriesnote .

For fictional diseases that result in a character breaking out in spots, see Polka-Dot Disease. These two tropes can overlap if the fictional disease bears significant resemblance to chickenpox, especially if there's an uncontrollable itch to accompany the spots. Other elements that distinguish the disease as a chickenpox analogue are using the "[animal] pox" name template, the disease spreading mostly among children, and if the disease can only be caught once in a lifetime.

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Examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • Pucca: Parodied in "Chicken Spots", when the Vagabond Ninja Clan release an illness through a spell that covers Sooga Village residents in spots and makes them act like chickens. As it turns out, the cure is dressing as a fox and growling at the infected ones.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes story arc, Calvin comes down with chickenpox and has to be inside for a week during summer vacation. At least he thinks the spots are cool.
  • One week of Drabble strips has the family come down with duck pox as diagnosed by No-Neck, resulting in them being quarantined. At the end of the week, Ralph reads the newspaper and discovers they're actually afflicted with prickly heat.
  • A Tales Of Absurdity strip has a doctor tell a boy not to worry about his chicken pox, as it's only dangerous in adults. Unfortunately, this "boy" is actually Benjamin Button, and due to his Merlin Sickness, the chickenpox kills him.
  • In one Foxtrot arc, Peter is forced to take Paige to a school dance thanks to Denise coming down with the chickenpox.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live Action 
  • Home Alone 3: The main character Alex gets chickenpox (which he discovers after scratching himself silly in public), and while staying home from school, he discovers North Korean spies outside his home, kickstarting the plot. The spies end up catching his chickenpox at the end of the movie.
  • Midway (2019): In a close variant, Admiral Halsey is forced to stay home when the carrier group deploys for the Battle of Midway due to developing shingles. Shingles is what happens when dormant chicken pox virus left from the original infection reactivates and begins replicating in adults.

    Literature 
  • Amber Brown: You Can't Eat Your Chicken Pox, Amber Brown is about Amber getting chicken pox when she arrives in London to see her aunt Pam. She is unable to go to France to see her father, as such, but he ends up coming to London.
  • Amelia Bedelia: Downplayed; at the end of Calling Doctor Amelia Bedelia, it's revealed Mr. Rogers (who had a headache earlier) has chicken pox. He eats some chicken soup and remarks that it "hit the spot," and Amelia tries to figure out which of his spots it hit.
  • The Arthur book Arthur's Chicken Pox has Arthur come down with the chickenpox the week before a trip to the circus. He rests so he can get better by the weekend, with his parents and grandma giving him treats and soothing baths. D.W. is jealous of the attention Arthur gets, so she paints spots on herself with a marker and pretends to be sick. However, her spots wash off when she gets a bath. On the day of the circus, Arthur is better, but D.W. actually does have the chickenpox and has to stay home.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club: In "Karen's Chicken Pox" from the Little Sister spinoff, Emily gets chicken pox and Karen ends up catching it from her (much to her dismay, as this means she has to miss out on Halloween).
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: In "The Third Wheel", there's an outbreak of chicken pox. Greg and Rowley are about to go to a school dance, but Greg sees that Rowley has a few red bumps on his face. Thinking that he's gotten chicken pox, Greg has him wear a hat and a scarf to cover it up. At the dance, Greg sees that Abigail has a red bump by her lip and freaks out, fearing that she's gotten it too. As it turns out, neither of them had chicken pox and they were just zits. Ironically, Greg himself gets chickenpox at the end of the book.
  • In the Dirty Bertie story "Germs", Bertie's older sister Susie gets chicken pox. He tries to catch it so that he can stay home from school, but unfortunately when he does catch it, it's the weekend.
  • In the kids' book Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox, Goldie Locks comes down with the chicken pox, and she doesn't really mind, but becomes annoyed when her brother starts teasing her and telling her she looks like an alien. Eventually, he catches it too.
  • The children's book Itchy, Itchy Chicken Pox is about a nameless boy who gets chicken pox and is greatly inconvenienced by the constant itching. By the end, though, he recovers and is glad to be back in school.
  • In the children's book Marsha Makes Me Sick, a little girl named Lulu finds her baby sister Marsha annoying and Marsha has the chicken pox. When Lulu catches the disease, she says the title.
  • In the short children's story Michael's Chicken Pox Game, a boy named Michael has the chicken pox and his babysitter gives him new bath toys to cheer him up.
  • In the children's book Poor Monty, Monty gets chicken pox and starts describing his symptoms to his mother, who is a doctor. When she can't diagnose him from the description alone and has to look at him to realise he has chicken pox, she fears that she's a bad doctor.

    Live Action TV 
  • Baywatch: In "Beauty and the Beast," C.J. comes down with chicken pox, putting her out of the running to model for Inside Sports Magazine. Neely pulls strings to claim that Caroline has already had chicken pox and is immune, allowing Caroline to expose herself to C.J. and catch the disease, leaving Neely as the only one able to pose for the magazine.
  • El Chavo del ocho plays around with this in the "Sarampión" and "Viruela" episodes. Basically, the plot is that Don Ramón pretends that La Chilindrina is sick with chickenpox to drive Mr. Barriga out of his house and skip out of paying the rent. Then, Professor Jirafales shows up and reveals that la Chilindrina apparently skipped out school by feigning sick, so Don Ramón punishes by locking her up in her room. La Chilindrina then escapes and starts messing with everyone by pretending she's gonna spread the chickenpox to everyone else, and at the end of the episode, turns out she did have chickenpox for real and is now bedridden, with el Chavo lamenting that everyone but him got it (he wanted to get sick so people would feed him three meals a day).
  • Dennis the Menace: In "Junior Astronaut," Dennis wins a contest to meet an astronaut, but isn't able to go because he catches chickenpox.
  • Fresh Off the Boat: Eddie's subplot in the episode "Blind Spot" has him try to catch chickenpox from Evan so he can skip school and not go to the science fair, while Evan tries to infect Emery so he can't win the science fair. However, Eddie's research on how to catch chickenpox ends up being good fodder for a science fair project. Jessica's gay ex-boyfriend Oscar also catches chickenpox at the end of the episode.
  • Friends: In "The One with the Chicken Pox", Phoebe gets chickenpox, having never caught it as a kid. Ryan, a guy who used to date her, comes to visit, and catches it as well. Monica ends up duct-taping oven mitts over their hands so they won't scratch themselves.
  • Full House: In the season 1 episode "A Pox in Our House", Stephanie gets chickenpox, which eventually spreads to Jesse (who initially thought he had them as a child) and Joey (who claimed he was immune to chickenpox). This leaves the family in a bind as Michelle (who was a baby at the time) is too young to get them and having to choose between Danny (who has the chance to interview the Golden State Warriors) and DJ (who has a slumber party planned) to look after the family. In the end, it's DJ who agrees to look after them.
  • How To Stay Well: The episode "Gyms, Bacon, & Chickenpox" had a segment on chickenpox, specifically whether it's more severe when contracted from a sibling.
  • Home Improvement: In "Roomie For Improvement," Mark develops chickenpox and Tim is forced to move in with Al for a few days because he's never had it. This becomes the main story as Al's lifestyle drives Tim up the wall, culminating in him accidentally convincing a woman Al wants to date that he's Al's lover.
  • In the Raven's Home episode "The Baxtercism of Levi Grayson", Nia gets the chickenpox on Halloween. The same plot had previously happened in its original That's So Raven, when multiple members of the Baxter family caught it at once.
  • In the Malcolm in the Middle episode "Cliques" during the subplot when Dewey is stuck at home with the chickenpox and builds a dominoes masterpiece.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In the Allegra's Window episode, "Lots of Turkey Pox", Allegra comes down with a case of the Turkey Pox, and is upset that she has to miss the big craft project at daycare. Luckily, Lindi goes back and forth since dogs can't catch the disease, and tells her how to participate from home.
  • In the Fraggle Rock episode, "Pebble Pox Blues", Gobo comes down with the highly contagious Pebble Pox, which leaves him itchy and feverish. The germaphobic Boober has to go out and look for a cure, but he starts to panic when Wembley, who came along with him, starts to get sick as well. It's also stated you only get Pebble Pox once.
  • Lamb Chop's Play-Along: In "Chicken Pox," Lamb Chop gets chickenpox, ending up with a fever (hot enough to steam the thermometer!) and stomachache, then breaks out in spots. Shari helps Lamb Chop relax and stop scratching (giving her a picture of a chicken to scratch instead), and cheers her and Charlie Horse up by telling a story about chickens. Charlie Horse later ends up with chickenpox himself.
  • Sesame Street: A variant in Episode 3735, when Big Bird gets green, itchy spots called the "birdy pox". The spots first show up on his legs before moving to the rest of his body. Dr. Matthews tells him that his birdy pox will disappear by bedtime. Sure enough, by the end of the episode, they're gone.

    Webcomic 
  • Two installments of the webcomic Gene's Journal has Gene wake up with chickenpox, which he initially thinks is the result of his alien captors experimenting on him. The aliens think he got it from eating chicken, and worry about a potential "peanut butter pox."

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur: In Arthur's Chicken Pox, adapted from the book of the same name, has Arthur come down with chickenpox mere days before his family is scheduled to go to the circus. It starts with him having strange hallucinations and fever dreams, then he breaks out in spots. His grandma gives him an oatmeal bath and a drink with a crazy straw. D.W. gets jealous and pretends to have chickenpox by drawing spots on herself with a red crayon, but she's exposed when her bath washes the spots away. On the day of the circus, Arthur is better, but D.W. really does have chickenpox. However, unlike the original book, D.W. is excited to have chickenpox, since the circus comes every year, but you only get chickenpox once.
  • Caillou:
    • In "Caillou Gets Sick", Caillou wakes up with a fever. Later on, chicken pox starts to appear on his body and he has to take a few baths throughout the episode. His mother cheers him up by putting red dots on one of his toy dinosaurs.
    • In one episode of Caillou's New Adventures, Caillou gets chicken pox. Much to his disappointment, he gets it on the same day he was going to the park to see Leo. He gets better at the end of the episode, but now Rosie has chicken pox.
  • Chip and Potato:
    • In "Puggy Butterfly", Chip gets "puggy spots" (which is the same thing as chicken pox, but for pugs) on the day the class butterfly is supposed to come out of its cocoon. As the episode goes on, Chip gets more red spots. At the end of the episode, Momma takes her home.
    • In "Itchy Chip", Chip still has "puggy spots" from the previous episode, and spends the day trying to ignore the itchiness by doing other things.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Operation M.A.U.R.I.C.E. is about Numbuh 9 promising to find and destroy the source of the Teens' Chickenpox, which the Teens have weaponized against kids. Chickenpox is depicted as clucking chickens where bumps would be. Unfortunately, Numbuh 9 was unable to fulfill his promise before his decommissioning, but was able to do so as a Double Agent against the Teens.
  • Downplayed in the Dennis the Menace episode, "Cheer Up"; Mr. Wilson becomes hospitalized when he injures both his arm and leg after tripping on Dennis' skateboard, and Dennis comes to visit him in an unsuccessful attempt to cheer him up. At the end of the episode, the doctor examines Dennis and discovers that he has Chicken Pox. To both Dennis' delight and Mr. Wilson's horror, Dennis has to stay in the hospital as Mr. Wilson's roommate.
  • In the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Chicken Scratch," Dexter gets chickenpox, which Dee Dee claims is caused by contaminated chickens breaking into houses and pecking itchy spots on people's bodies. She also claims that scratching the spots will turn you into a chicken. Dexter tries to cure his illness without scratching himself, but he ultimately can't resist and scratches himself silly. The episode ends with Dexter as a chicken.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: In "Laugh Ed Laugh," the entire neighborhood, sans the three Eds, come down with chicken pox. With no kids to scam, Eddy goes insane.
  • The Fairly OddParents: Parodied in "Chicken Poofs," where Poof catches the titular disease, which turns him and anybody he sneezes on into a chicken.
  • Fanboy and Chum Chum: In "Chicken Pox," Kyle catches a wizard's version of chickenpox that turns him into a literal chicken, and the only cure is to lay an egg. The egg hatches into an elf doctor who cures Kyle and tells him to eat more roughage.
  • George Shrinks: In "If I Ran the Circus", Junior gets chickenpox on the day the family is supposed to go to the circus. Mr. Shrinks agrees to stay behind with Junior and spends the rest of the episode trying to entertain him while George goes instead. Things get better for Junior once George comes home and makes a circus of his own (he even gets performers from the circus itself to have a parade for him).
  • Grojband: In the episode "Pox n' Roll", Corey catches the chickenpox and decides to throw a literal pox party (as in a chickenpox-themed party) for his band to play at. However, Trina gets Mayor Mellow to quarantine everyone, leaving Grojband to figure out how to escape and how to keep the trapped guests happy while at it.
  • Katie and Orbie: In "Chicken Pox Party," Katie catches the chicken pox on Halloween. Fortunately, all her friends have had it before and can't catch it again, so they can still have their Halloween party.
  • Little Bill: The episode "Chicken Pox" is about Little Bill having chicken pox and feeling disappointed that everyone else can do things while he has to stay in bed.
  • In the Madeline episode "Madeline and the Costume Party", the girls all get chicken pox. Thankfully, by the time of the party they're no longer contagious and their fevers and sluggishness have gone away, but they still have spots, which they cover up with facepaint.
  • The Mighty B!: "Apoxalypse Now" is about Bessie trying to catch chickenpox from Gwen and her brothers so Bessie can get the "Chickenpox Patch." Bessie even breaks into Gwen's house by using Ben (who already had the chickenpox) to distract Gwen. At the end of the episode, Ben is the one who gets sick, as it turns out Bessie did already have chickenpox and is now immune.
  • In the Milly, Molly cartoon series episode "Spots and Stripes", Milly gets chicken pox on her seventh birthday, but has her party anyway. The guests change the theme from stripes to spots to cheer her up.
  • Molang: In "The Chickenpox", Piu Piu gets chickenpox (bonus points for being an actual chick). The doctor warns Molang to keep their distance. At the end of the episode, Molang catches it too, but they're overjoyed because they can spend time with Piu Piu again.
  • PB&J Otter: In "Otter Pox", Jelly catches the titular disease on her birthday. She and her friends try to come up with ways for her to participate in the festivities even though she is sick.
  • The Postman Pat episode "A Spotty Situation" combines this with Plague Episode in that three quarters of the town's population seem to have caught chicken pox, even the adults. After a girl suggests gargling with saltwater, Pat tells everyone, "Don't forget to gargle", and at the end, their gargling can be heard from the streets.
  • Rolie Polie Olie: A variant; the episode "Polie Pox" is about Olie getting the titular illness and being covered in itchy multicolored spots. Zowie wishes that she had Polie Pox too so she could eat some ice cream. At the end of the episode, she gets it too.
  • Rugrats: In "Chicken Pops," Chuckie gets chickenpox (which the babies call "chicken pops"), and Angelica says that means he's going to turn into a chicken. The babies don't believe her until Chuckie gets feathers from a torn pillow stuck to him (because he's covered in calamine lotion), so Chuckie learns how to act like a chicken in preparation for his transformation. The other babies catch chickenpox as well, but claim solidarity with Chuckie and cluck at Angelica until she leaves them alone. Susie explains to them later that chickenpox doesn't actually turn you into a chicken.
  • The Simpsons: "Milhouse of Sand and Fog" has Maggie contract chickenpox, leading Homer and Marge to throw a "pox party" to help other children gain their childhood immunity... only Homer never gained an immunity, concerning Marge because the disease is much more dangerous in adults. Despite his best efforts, he ends up getting it.
  • South Park: In "Chickenpox," Stan's older sister Shelly gets hospitalized with chickenpox, so the younger boys' parents plot to infect them while they're young so it won't be as severe. They set up a sleepover with the infected Kenny, which gets Stan and Cartman sick, but not Kyle. When the boys find out about this plot, they get mad and take revenge by infecting their parents with herpes (which comes from the same virus category) with help from an old prostitute. The boys end up very sick by the end of the episode, and Kenny dies from chickenpox, showing how ridiculous the "chickenpox party" idea is.
  • Thomas & Friends: In "Henry Spots Trouble", Sir Topham Hatt's grandchildren, Stephen and Bridgett come down with a case of chicken pox. This causes Henry to worry about if engines can get it as well. He freaks out when he sees Thomas, Paxton, and Gordon with spots on their faces, which are revealed to be mud, dust, and paint, respectively. Towards the end of the episode, Sir Topham Hatt informs Henry that only people can catch chicken pox, but most people get it when they're young and get better quickly.
  • Total DramaRama: "The A-Bok-Bok-Bokalypse" is about a chickenpox outbreak in the daycare. Izzy tells the others that it'll turn them into chickens, which makes the kids worry this is punishment for their poor treatment of chickens. While Chef quarantines the infectees, the other kids track down the Chicken Queen to apologize for their sins. The Queen provides them with soothing lotions while dissuading the myth that chickenpox turns you into a chicken (though Jude and Chef turn into chickens anyway).
  • Victor and Valentino: In "La Planchada", Victor catches chicken pox from Valentino, but brags that he's "faster than germs" and is in denial. After infecting all his friends in a game of tag, he summons La Planchada, a spirit that heals chicken pox if you are worthy. When La Planchada comes that night, she cures Val but not Vic, unless he makes amends to all the kids he infected, and threatens to flatten him with her iron if he doesn't.

 
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Milly

Milly gets chicken pox. On her birthday, no less.

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