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7 Symptoms of Adult Chicken Pox

Updated on March 19, 2017
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Marian (aka Azure11) is a professional artist. She and her son recently came down with chicken pox.

Getting Adult Chicken Pox

As a child I always grew up with the knowledge that I had never had chicken pox. Every time someone I vaguely knew came down with the illness, I worried that this would be the time that I would finally catch it.

People often questioned my memory on the fact that I hadn't had chicken pox as a child, but I was recently proved right when my son got it—and shortly afterward, I got it, too. It was not a nice experience!

As I had done a ton of research, I was at least somewhat prepared for the pox itself, but I was a little bit caught off guard by my first symptoms. Given my experience, I thought it would be useful to share my story with others.

Chicken pox spots often appear like small blisters
Chicken pox spots often appear like small blisters

Incubation Period

In terms of both my son and myself I got a quite accurate insight into the incubation period for chicken pox for both of us and this is how it went:

  • Day 1 (Thursday) - My son's childminder reported that as they were at a children's group, one of the children had come out in spots.
  • Day 12 (Monday) - A single spot appeared on my son's neck which quickly looked blistered. He didn't appear to have any other symptoms but he was too young to tell me if he did and also he was just recovering from a chest infection.
  • Day 15 (Thursday) - So actually 2 weeks to the day that he had been exposed to the virus, he came out in a whole lot of spots.
  • Day 25 (Sunday) - Almost exactly 2 weeks after my son's first spot appeared I started with the symptoms which I will list below in order.

Symptom 1 - Headache

So the first symptom that I got and an indication that something was not right was a headache. I slept badly on the first night with a headache that didn't go overnight. The headache continued into the second night.

Symptom 2 - Feeling Sick

So along with the headache I started to feel a bit sick. Just mild nausea which meant that I really didn't feel like having any breakfast that morning, so just had a cup of tea.

It came and went during the day and I was able to eat some food later.

Symptom 3 - Chills

This was really a big indication that something was wrong. it was less than 24 hours after the headache had started and I just couldn't get warm and was shivering uncontrollably even though the heating was on and I had warm clothing on.

I ended up going to bed at 7pm and even under the warm duvet and with a woolly cardigan on I was still shivering.

Symptom 4 - Fever

The chills lead to a fever and on the first night (still before any spots had appeared) I had a temperature of 38.8 degrees. I was continuing to feel hot and cold at the same time and really didn't get much more than a couple of hours of sleep.

The fever continued the next night and got up to 39.6 degrees at one point. After cooling myself off with a cold flannel it did start to reduce a little bit.

Symptom 5 - Spots

Obviously spots are the most obvious symptom of chicken pox and these appeared on what I would say is about day 2/3. This was after the night of having chills and fever.

The first spot appeared in the morning and rapidly more and more appeared. In fact from the late morning when I saw the doctor and he had to ask me to show him the spots, that would not have been necessary later in the day when they were all pretty obvious.

Although all of my son's spots really appeared overnight, I would say that my spots took a couple of days to appear, maybe 3 in all, until they were all there and there were a lot of them!

It can be quite disconcerting to see them all appearing as if by magic on your face. In fact it can be quite depressing and you can't really imagine your face ever recovering from the blight, but it does get better.

The obvious thing is not to scratch the spots (and actually this isn't too difficult as, once you have scratched one on your head, you know how painful that is!). But the really difficult thing is not to rub them or brush them even by accident. Think of how many time you rub your face normally and it is really tricky not to do so almost subconsciously.

You may need to reach out for help from friends and family when you have adult chicken pox.
You may need to reach out for help from friends and family when you have adult chicken pox.

Symptom 6 - Aches and Pains

Over the whole time I had general aches and pains, as well as the headache in particular. I had pains in my back and neck and took paracetamol on and off to keep the aches and pains at bay.

My doctor did say I could also take ibuprofen (which is not recommended to children with chicken pox) but I only felt I needed the paracetamol the majority of the time so I took that and a couple of ibuprofen.

While you are still contagious you may need to get help from friends and family if you need drugs or groceries as you shouldn't really be going out before the spots have scabbed over.

Symptom 7 - Sore Throat

So this symptom came right at the end of the chicken pox, when the spots had started to heal over. Perhaps it was a result of having spots in my mouth (as I did have a bit of a funny taste in my mouth) or perhaps it was just that my immune system was down. In any case it got to a point a few days in where I completely lost my voice.

I have read that other people have also experienced this symptom so I am going to include it on my list!

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Will the Spots Ever Go?

One question that you might ask yourself when you have adult chicken pox is 'will the spots ever go?' and you also might wonder if your face will ever look the same again.

if you do get a lot of spots on your face it can be quite depressing to look at them as they really look like they are going to be there for a good while and it can feel embarrassing to show your face in the outside world!

However, don't stress too much as the spots should go pretty quickly. In fact within a week of my spots appearing they were really starting to go away and within 2 weeks you could barely see any of them any more.

So even if it really feels like they are bad then, as long as you don't scratch off the scabs before they are ready, they really will heal up much more quickly than you might imagine.

What My Doctor Recommended

So to summarise what my doctor recommended to take when I had chicken pox (obviously you should seek your own medical advice for your own circumstances):

  • paracetamol for fever and headache (acetaminophen in the U.S.)
  • ibuprofen (Advil, etc., in the U.S.)
  • piriton allergy relief tablets
  • calamine lotion or cream for the spots

© 2017 Marian L

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