I am 29 years old and I have chickenpox. I have a constant headache, an unbearable sore throat and I was told to watch out for pneumonia. Should I be worried?
You are in that unlucky 10 percent of people who get chickenpox after the age of 15, when the disease is more severe and the risks of complication are higher. Still you should not worry. It does not help anything and the stress it creates may actually impede your recovery. Instead, learn about the signs and symptoms of chickenpox complications and contact your doctor if they develop.
The chickenpox rash itself is not really the problem in adults; it is the potential for complications that is cause for concern. Complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis are much more common among adults than children, but that does not mean every adult with chickenpox will have serious problems. Most healthy adults do not.
The risks are greatest among people who have weakened immune systems or are pregnant. Smoking also seems to increase the risk of complications.
Chicken pox is caused by the varicella virus, a form of herpes virus. Pneumonia associated with chickenpox is known as varicella pneumonia, because it occurs when the virus infects the lungs. Doctors cannot always diagnose pneumonia based on symptoms. A chest X-ray is usually needed to confirm the diagnosis.
So do not worry, but do call your doctor and definitely see a doctor if you have not. In fact, given your symptoms, it probably makes sense to insist on a recheck even if you have already been seen.
There is an antiviral drug called acyclovir that is sometimes used to ease symptoms and decrease the severity of chickenpox in adults. However, it has been found that acyclovir has very limited effect if it is not given within 24 hours of the onset of the rash.