How Chicken Pox Works

Chicken Pox Complications

Chicken pox can be a menacing foe. Before routine vaccinations, nearly 10,600 Americans were hospitalized for varicella-related causes annually, and more than 100 people died each year from it [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)]. Sometimes, however, chicken pox isn't the only illness the body must fight. The disease can cause a broad range of related health problems, or complications, particularly when the virus travels to and infects other parts of the body.

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Mouse over the chicken pox complications to see how they affect ­the body­.

In most cases, people can treat chicken pox at home, as it works its way through the body in about a week. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following physical signs indicate that you should go to the doctor:

  • Fever lasting longer than four days or exceeding 102 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Rash spreads to your eyeballs
  • Rash appears infected
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Stiff neck
  • Increased vomiting or coughing

Although children make up a majority of chicken pox cases, they typically experience the fewest severe complications. However, kids need to be careful not to scratch the itchy blisters because about one in 20 children will get an infected rash [source: National Network for Immunization Information]. The bacteria from fingernails can infect the open blisters and cause a secondary infection.

The severe complications pose a greater threat to certain groups of people, which we will discuss in the next section.