Symptoms of Chicken Pox in Adults

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Chicken pox is one of the most well-known diseases, with its characteristic rash of red bumps and blisters. While it is normally thought of as a childhood disease, some adults are at risk.

chicken pox on adult's back
chicken pox on adult's back

How Many Adults Get Chicken Pox?

Only about 5 percent of chicken pox cases in the United States are adults.

woman talking to doctor
woman talking to doctor

Symptoms

A case of chicken pox may start with mild fever for a few days. Next, red, itchy bumps form on the skin, normally concentrated on the face, scalp, back and chest. Before and during the rash, other symptoms often occur, such as tiredness, loss of appetite, general aches and pains, headache and coughing. The infection ends when the bumps dry out and crust over. Chicken pox normally lasts seven to 10 days.

woman with slight fever
woman with slight fever

How Is Chicken Pox Different in Adults?

Adult chicken pox infections can be more severe or lead to complications, especially among pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems (due to chronic disease or certain medications), people taking steroid medications and eczema sufferers. The following are signs of severe infection: rash spreading into the eyes; rash that is especially red, warm to the touch or tender; dizziness or disorientation; severe cough or trouble breathing; stiff neck; muscle tremors or loss of coordination; excessive vomiting; and fever higher than 103 degrees. Consult your physician if you exhibit these signs. Possible complications can include bacterial skin infection, pneumonia and encephalitis.

pregnant woman with doctors
pregnant woman with doctors

Infection

You can catch the chicken pox virus by direct contact with an infected person or by breathing in virus droplets that were coughed or sneezed into the air or came from the chicken pox blisters.

father with son who has chicken pox
father with son who has chicken pox

Prevention

Except in rare cases, once you have had chicken pox, you are immune from catching it again. For others, there is a chicken pox vaccine that has shown 80 to 85 percent effectiveness. Even if the vaccine fails to prevent infection, it will lessen the severity of your illness.

chicken pox vaccine
chicken pox vaccine

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