Complications from chickenpox can occur, but they are not common in healthy people who get the disease.

People who may get a serious case of chickenpox and may be at high risk for complications include:

  • Infants
  • Adolescents
  • Adults
  • People who are pregnant
  • People with bodies that have a lowered ability to fight germs and sickness (weakened immune systems) because of illness or medications, for example,
    • People with HIV/AIDS or cancer
    • Patients who have had transplants, and
    • People on chemotherapy, immunosuppressive medications, or long-term use of steroids.

Serious complications from chickenpox include:

  • Bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children, including Group A streptococcal infections
  • Infection of the lungs (pneumonia)
  • Infection or swelling of the brain (encephalitis, cerebellar ataxia)
  • Bleeding problems (hemorrhagic complications)
  • Bloodstream infections (sepsis)
  • Dehydration

Some people with serious complications from chickenpox can become so sick that they need to be hospitalized. Chickenpox can also cause death.

Deaths are very rare now due to the vaccine program. However, some deaths from chickenpox continue to occur in healthy, unvaccinated children and adults. In the past, many of the healthy adults who died from chickenpox contracted the disease from their unvaccinated children.