Irish chickenpox urgent warning of ‘serious’ complications

Irish health experts have issued a new warning about the “serious” complications of chickenpox – as cases of hospital admissions doubled in the last year.

About 12 cases of chickenpox have required hospital treatment so far this year, down from just five over the same period in 2021.

Hospital admissions for chickenpox are up 140 percent so far this year


Hospital admissions for chickenpox are up 140 percent so far this yearPhoto credit: Getty
Chickenpox can cause serious complications for babies and pregnant women


Chickenpox can cause serious complications for babies and pregnant womenCredit: Alamy

And 40 percent of Irish people are unaware of the risks and complications chickenpox can cause, experts fear.

According to HPSC data through April 2, there were two hospitalizations for chickenpox last week.

So far this year 12 people have been hospitalized with the disease, up from five people in the same period last year during the Covid lockdown when children were out of school – a 140 per cent increase.

Chickenpox is a common, highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus.

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It mainly affects children under the age of 10, but you can get infected with the bug at any age.

Chickenpox can cause an itchy, blistering rash, as well as high temperatures above 100°F (38°C), pain, and loss of appetite.

It can be a serious condition, especially in babies, adults, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.

Professor David Coghlan, a consultant pediatrician, said chickenpox can become a “very serious illness” for some.

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Prof Coghlan said: “What many people don’t know is that, under certain circumstances, chickenpox can become a very serious illness for young children, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system.

“Complications can include infections on the skin, lung infections or pneumonia, and pregnancy problems, including spreading the infection to an unborn baby.

“While the risks are low among the parents surveyed, the complications caused by chickenpox can be life-changing in some cases.

“In addition, if you have had chickenpox at any point, you are at greater risk of developing shingles later in life.

“This can happen when the immune system is weak and the chickenpox virus reactivates. Information is key when it comes to managing the health and well-being of our family.

“Speak directly to a GP or healthcare professional to get all the facts you need to decide what’s best for your family.”


Chickenpox starts with red spots. They can appear anywhere on the body. They become extremely itchy after about 12 to 14 hours.

Some other symptoms may develop before or after the pimples, including temperatures of 100ºF (38ºC), pain, and general malaise and loss of appetite.

The HSE offers chickenpox vaccine, but not as part of routine childhood vaccinations.

People can pay to get the vaccine from their GP and it can be given to anyone over 12 months.

New research has shown that 60 percent of people said they had some awareness of the risks associated with chickenpox.

According to the study, carried out by Ipsos on behalf of MSD Ireland, 40 percent of people did not feel aware of the risks and complications that the virus can cause.

The research also showed that it takes an average parent three days annual leave to look after a sick child with chickenpox.

While 30 percent of parents said their child needed ten days or more off school to recover from the illness.


Two in three Irish households have experienced chickenpox directly, with two in five respondents having passed the virus to other siblings or relatives.

It has been estimated that nearly two out of every five cases of chickenpox were picked up in a preschool setting.

The family doctor Dr. Laura Lenihan said the results showed that “there is a need” to raise awareness about chickenpox and its impact on family life.

dr Lenihan said: “Chickenpox is one of many preventable diseases that families, schools and our community health services encounter every year.

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“With the massive strain on our healthcare system, we should all be looking at ways to alleviate that pressure and ensure preventable diseases like chickenpox don’t make the problem worse.

“This cannot be achieved without greater awareness of chickenpox and the potential impact it can have on our households in the first place and that is something we cannot become complacent about as we are still dealing with Covid in our healthcare facilities -19 finish.” Irish chickenpox urgent warning of ‘serious’ complications

Fry Electronics Team

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