Although chickenpox is considered a childhood infectious disease, it can also affect adults who did not have the disease in childhood. The course of the disease in them is usually more serious, the risk of complications is high, something you need to know.
Chickenpox in adults: does it happen?
Yes, adults who did not have the infection as children and were not vaccinated against chickenpox are at risk of becoming infected through contact with a child who has chickenpox or an adult who has shingles. This is a disease caused by the same virus that is stored in the cells of the body for a lifetime and worsens due to weakened immunity.
Adults with chickenpox usually have more severe symptoms than children. This can lead to a number of additional health complications.
Chickenpox can also have a negative impact on daily life, for example, it is necessary to skip work and separate contact with others so that other people – children and adults – are not infected.
Reasons why chickenpox in adults is dangerous
Adults infected with chickenpox usually have the same symptoms as children, although these manifestations tend to be more severe and severe. Therefore, chickenpox is more dangerous for adults who tolerate it more seriously, with a high risk of additional complications.
1. Red spots and blisters on the skin
The most common symptom of chickenpox, which is usually found in the disease, is the itchy red spots that gradually turn into blisters filled with fluid. These blisters usually occur all over the body, including the scalp, genitals and oral mucosa. Chickenpox eruptions go through successive stages, from an itchy patch to a blister, and then can erupt, producing a honey-yellow liquid. Then they form a crust and form a scab (wound). New spots can be added elsewhere while old spots heal. It lasts up to a week. If you comb these spots, tear off the unhealed crust, they may leave permanent scars (rounded dimples) or become entangled.
2. Flu-like symptoms
Feeling unwell and fever (up to high numbers) are the most common symptoms of chickenpox, along with skin rashes. In addition, a person may experience loss of appetite, fatigue, body aches and headaches. These symptoms can last for 5-10 days. 1-2 days before the onset of the rash, a person is transmitted to those who have not been previously infected with chickenpox or who have not been vaccinated. And it remains contagious until all the red spots dry out and scabs form. It is recommended that you do not return to work or interact with vulnerable people until all the symptoms of chickenpox have disappeared (on average, this is three weeks).
In addition to more severe symptoms, adults may develop other complications as a result of chickenpox.
3. Bacterial infections of the skin, soft tissues, bones, joints or blood circulation (sepsis)
Open sores form on the skin where blisters appear. They are characterized by intense painful itching and when the elements are combed, the crusts are peeled off, germs can enter the wound. Given the fact that immunity can be somewhat weakened by chickenpox, there is a risk of germ activation, leading to the formation of a purulent wound on the skin, tissue damage (fibers and muscles) and sometimes the penetration of germs into the bloodstream. This threatens sepsis (blood poisoning).
Chickenpox is characterized by severe malaise and extremely high temperatures, which last for several days. Against the background of fever, the body loses a fairly large amount of fluid through sweat. If a person drinks little fluids and eats almost nothing in the context of malaise, with the appearance of painful sores in the mouth (stomatitis), dehydration is possible with increased intoxication and malaise.
Against the background of chickenpox, small respiratory phenomena appear. But in some cases, chickenpox bronchitis can develop from pneumonia (viral in nature) or secondary microbial inflammatory processes can occur due to the reactivation of your own microflora in the airway. The treatment of these lungs is quite complicated, there is a risk of damage to a large amount of lung tissue.
6. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
In the context of chickenpox infection, a dangerous complication is possible – brain damage with the development of chickenpox encephalitis. This is a process that occurs if a virus from the body’s tissues enters the brain and causes it to become inflamed. This is a life threatening condition that requires only hospital treatment.
7. Inflammation of the joints
In the context of chickenpox, it is also possible to damage the joints by developing viral reactive arthritis. They are very painful, they can disrupt the activity, cause severe swelling of the tissues.
8. Toxic shock syndrome
This is an intense general intoxication associated with virus activity and the accumulation of metabolic products. These complications require immediate medical attention, so it is essential that you see a doctor as soon as possible.
Who is most at risk for chickenpox and its complications?
- Newborns and infants whose mothers have never had chickenpox or been vaccinated.
- Pregnant women who do not have chickenpox or have not been vaccinated.
- People with immunosuppression, such as those taking drugs that suppress their immune system or those with diseases such as HIV.
- Elderly people.
These categories, if they did not have chickenpox in childhood, it is recommended that they be vaccinated. The varicella vaccine is usually given only to those who have regular contact with people who may have the infection. The vaccine is suitable for everyone aged 1 to 65 years.
Who should not be vaccinated against chickenpox?
- If a person has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine or to any component of the vaccine (such as gelatin).
- If the patient is ill, the temperature has risen, the vaccination should be postponed until recovery.
- Pregnant women should delay vaccination until they have a baby. If a woman is pregnant and thinks she has chickenpox, see a doctor as soon as possible.
- If your immune system is suppressed by drugs that suppress the immune system or as a result of diseases such as HIV, you should talk to your doctor before getting vaccinated.