Complications of Chickenpox
Chickenpox is normally a mild disease. But it can be serious and can lead to complications or death, especially in high-risk people. Complications include:
- Bacterial infections of the skin, soft tissues, bones, joints or bloodstream (sepsis)
- Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
- Toxic shock syndrome
- Reye's syndrome for people who take aspirin during chickenpox
Other complications of chickenpox affect pregnant women. Chickenpox early in pregnancy can result in a variety of problems in a newborn, including low birth weight and birth defects, such as limb abnormalities. A greater threat to a baby occurs when the mother develops chickenpox in the week before birth or within a couple of days after giving birth. Then it can cause a serious, life-threatening infection in a newborn.
Symptoms of Chickenpox
The incubation period (the time from infection to symptoms) is about 14 to 21 days after contact with the virus.
Sometimes other symptoms may start a day or two before the rash appears.
These can include:
- Feeling tired and generally unwell
- High temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or over
- Feeling sick
- Aching, painful muscles
- Loss of appetite
Not everyone has these symptoms. They tend to be more common and more severe in older children and adults with chickenpox.
The chickenpox rash develops in three main stages.
The rash starts off as small, raised red spots.
The spots often first appear on the face or trunk before spreading to other parts of the body.
There may just be a few spots or there may be hundreds covering most of the body.
Sometimes spots can appear on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, inside the ears or mouth, or around the bottom or genitals.
During the following hours or the next day, the spots develop a fluid-filled blister on top.
The blisters may be very itchy, but it's important not to scratch them.
Scratching could spread the infection to others and increases the chances of complications such as a more serious skin infection.
Scabs and crusts
Over the next few days, the fluid in the blisters turns cloudy and the blisters begin to dry out and scab over.
New spots may keep appearing for a few days after the rash begins, so there may be a mix of spots, blisters and scabs at the same time.