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Date of last update: 10/19/2017.

Forum Name: Chest symptoms

Question: Adult chicken pox: worsening asthma and chest pain

 abcdefg - Wed Dec 14, 2005 12:07 pm

I am a 29-year-old female who has had moderate to severe asthma for most of my life. For the past 2 years I have been taking a combined inhaled corticosteroid and bronchodilator called Symbicort.

I am also an occasional smoker (bad, I know!).

Two weeks ago, I developed chicken pox. Because of my asthma, I insisted that the doctor give me a prescription for acyclovir. For some unknown reason, she seemed a little reticient to do so, but did anyway (400 mg, 3Xday for 10 days--I have since learned that the standard dose for adults should be higher than this!).

The spots themselves are doing okay at this point; most of the scabs have fallen off and I'm left with some pink scarring. I have also regained most of my appetite and my energy levels seem better.

However, ever since day 3 or so of the illness, I have noticed a worsening of my asthma symptoms (more wheezing and chest tightness) as well as a slight intermittent pain in the right side of my chest when I breathe. I have a cough that occasionally sounds congested and yesterday morning I coughed up some sputum (I do not have a cold). I have been using my inhaler with more frequency, often up to twice a day. Unfortunately though, my symptoms don't seem to be easing up very much.

I do not appear to be running a fever (although I don't own a thermometer so I can't say for sure--I'm going solely by touch) so rationally-speaking I don't think I have chickenpox pneumonia, but I am feeling a bit paranoid!

I guess what my question is, should I go in for a chest X-ray anyway, just in case? Or is this worsening of my asthma just likely a normal, temporary condition that could be associated with the chicken pox?

I am asking simply because I am temporarily without health insurance and don't have the funds required to pay for a hospital/doctor's visit. I wouldn't want to borrow money unless it was absolutely necessary.

Any advice you could provide would be extremely helpful.

Thank you.
 Dr. Safaa Mahmoud - Thu Jul 06, 2006 3:47 pm

User avatar Dear abcdefg,
Asthma is due to an inflammatory process in the respiratory airway a disease. The inflammation results in spasm of the muscles of the bronchial way with swollen cells in the airway lining, as a sequence narrowing of the respiratory tract and decreased airflow.
You have mentioned that you suffer from cough that is also productive and chest pain, this is more likely to be a chest infection that does not mean you have pneumonia. It can be bronchitis and pleurisy that cause these symptoms. (viral infection can be the cause unless your sputum is yellowish or greenish, in this case, super added bacterial infection is probably the cause). This can be due to your poor general condition that is associated with the attack of chicken pox. Keeping in mind, that asthmatic individual are more prone to chest infections and that asthma symptoms are also exacerbated with any types of chest infections.
Since your general condition is getting improved I expect also that your chest symptoms will improve gradually. If the symptoms are gradually improving while you are recovering from your infection then you can calm down and wait till you regain the initial condition, but if you have observed that your symptoms are getting worse or you have your sputum yellowish or greenish you better get checked by your doctor to prescribe you the required treatment.
Best regards,

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