Learning About Chicken Pox Complications

By Alley Benton
Updated December 11, 2016
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Learning About Chicken Pox ComplicationsChickenpox is generally a mild condition that passes without causing any severe issues, particularly in cases involving children. However, just like with any other disease, chicken pox complications can occur. However, these complications are more likely to happen in adults (particularly smoking adults), pregnant women, newborn babies under four weeks of age, and people who already have a low or weakened immune system.

In the following, we'll take a look at some of the most common chicken pox complications, so you know exactly what to watch out for if you fall victim to this condition.

Skin Infections:

One of the most common chicken pox complications to watch out for is infection of the skin. Because of the itch that comes with the disease, causing a tendency to scratch that could open up the skin, those scratches can sometimes become infected with bacteria, which might cause the area to become painful, swollen, and red. It's important to contact a doctor early if you believe that you or your child have gotten infected blisters or skin, as you might need to begin a course of antibiotics.

Lung Infections:

In certain circumstances, the virus associated with chickenpox can sometimes spread further than the skin - into the lungs, causing pneumonia and other conditions. This is far more likely to happen in adults, particularly those with weakened lungs and those with weak immune systems. The symptoms of pneumonia might include chest pain, problems with breathing, persistent coughing, shivering and sweating. If you notice something wrong with your respiratory system, contact your doctor immediately.

Infections to the Nerves or Brain:

In extremely rare circumstances, chickenpox might lead to more significant infections in the spinal cord and brain of people with low immune systems, pregnant women, and children. This can lead to seizures, vomiting, confusion, lack of energy, drowsiness, severe headaches, changes in behavior, problems with walking, speech, or balance, and a stiff neck. It is crucial to seek out medical help instantly if you notice that you or your children have any of these symptoms.


About one in three people who experience chickenpox will develop shingles at a later stage in life. This happens when the chickenpox virus becomes reactivated for some reason and creates a new blistery rash.

Pregnancy Issues:

Finally, if you are exposed to chickenpox for the first time while you're pregnant then you have a slightly increased risk of facing serious complications that affect your baby. The risk level will depend on exactly when you get the infection. If the infection takes place during the first 28 weeks the result can be a rare condition known as congenital varicella syndrome which can cause vision problems, scarring, brain damage, and shortened limbs. Infection between 28 and 37 weeks of the pregnancy could mean that the baby will be at risk of getting shingles at some point after being born. If you are infected a week before or after giving birth, your baby could be exposed to a potentially life threatening infection of chickenpox. Make sure that you contact your doctor as soon as possible if you have been exposed to chicken pox during your pregnancy.

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.