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Signs and Symptoms of Varicella Pneumonia

author image Noreen Kassem
Noreen Kassem is a hospital doctor and a medical writer. Her articles have been featured in "Women's Health," "Nutrition News," "Check Up" and "Alive Magazine." Kassem also covers travel, books, fitness, nutrition, cooking and green living.
Signs and Symptoms of Varicella Pneumonia
A young woman sick in bed. Photo Credit michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images


Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and any other organisms that can cause illness. According the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, pneumonia is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Penumonia caused by the Varicella virus is rare but does occur in community-aquired illness. The Varicella virus also causes chicken pox and shingles in adults; for this reason it is often referred to as chicken pneumonia. Like other pneumonia-causing orgnisms, the Varicella virus can cause mild to severe symptoms in patients. It is commonly treated with an anti-viral and anti-inflammatory medications.

Chest and Throat Pain

Varicella pneumonia infections can cause chest pain and dyspnea--or pain in the throat when swallowing. Chronic coughing can worsen the pain in the chest wall due to muscle strain. The chest pain can be so severe that the regular chest muscles for respiration are not used; instead the use of accessory breathing muscles is increased. The Merck Manual notes that coughs due to pneumonia produce mucous or phlegm in older children and adults, while younger children, infants and the elderly usually have dry coughs. A sore throat may also occur if the infection begins or spreads to the throat.

Fluid in the Lungs

Fluid in the lungs due to Varicella pneumonia can occur as pleural effusion or fluid within the lining of the lungs, as explained by the Merck Manual. Some pleural effusions do not cause symptoms, whereas others cause chest pain that may be felt as a mild discomfort or a sharp, stabbing pain. If the pain worsens on breathing in, this indicates that the pneumonia has caused inflammation in the pleural space of the lungs. In some cases pain is felt over the area of inflammation only; other patients also experience referred pain in the neck, shoulder and other areas.

Breathing Sounds

Breathing sounds are often used as part of pneumonia diagnosis by a doctor. The lobe or side of the lungs that is infected with the Varicella pneumonia often has decreased breath sounds, explains PakMediNet.com. If there is fluid in the lungs breathing will also be rapid and shallow. A classic sign of pneumonia is called a pleuritic friction rub. Though this may not occur in all patients, a friction rub causes ‘crackling’ or ‘rasping’ sounds during respiration, on both expiration and inspiration, as described by the Merck Manual. Lung friction sounds that are close to the heart can be confused with pericarditis or an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.

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