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Chickenpox (Varicella) - When To Call a Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you or your child with chickenpox has:

  • A severe headache or constant vomiting, sensitivity to bright light, or unusual sleepiness or confusion. These may be signs of inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).
  • Problems breathing or persistent coughing. These may be signs of varicella pneumonia.
  • Red, warm, and sore skin, or if the chickenpox rash changes to bigger open sores. These may be signs of serious skin infection.

Call for an appointment with your doctor if:

Recommended Related to Adult Vaccines

Checklist: Vaccines for Adults

Keeping up-to-date with your immunizations can be difficult. From when you had your last tetanus booster to whether you should get the flu vaccine, it's easy to lose track of which vaccinations you've had and which you need. But you should keep tabs on your immunization history. Better to do it now than wait until after you step on that rusty nail or find yourself with adult chickenpox. Following is a rundown of the vaccinations recommended in the CDC's Adult Immunization Schedule for 2010.

Read the Checklist: Vaccines for Adults article > >

  • You are older than age 12, you aren't sure if you have ever had chickenpox or the vaccine, and you have been exposed to chickenpox.
  • You or your child has a weak immune system and has been exposed to chickenpox.
  • You are pregnant and have been exposed to chickenpox.
  • You or your child has chickenpox and any of the following:
    • A fever that lasts longer than 24 hours
    • Severe itching that cannot be relieved by home treatment
    • Chickenpox rash on the eyeball
    • A rash that lasts longer than 2 weeks

If you are a teen or adult, are pregnant, or have a weak immune system, it's important to see your doctor as soon as you think you've been exposed to the chickenpox virus. Your doctor may want to give you a medicine that helps protect you from the virus.

A healthy child with chickenpox symptoms may not need to visit a doctor. You may be able to describe your child's symptoms to the doctor over the phone. Then your child won't have to leave the house and risk spreading the virus to others. But it is important to check with your doctor to find out if he or she wants to see your child.

If you go to a doctor's office, ask if you need to take any precautions when you arrive to avoid spreading the infection. For example, office staff may take you directly to an exam room when you arrive, rather than have you wait in the lobby.

Who to see

The following health professionals can diagnose and treat chickenpox:

If severe complications develop, you may be referred to a specialist. For example, you may see a pulmonologist for lung problems.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 23, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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