How Can I Tell If I Have Had Chicken Pox?

Patient

Q: How can I find out if I ever had Chicken Pox? I want to get a Shingle Shot, but they all say to get one only if you had Chicken Pox. What would happen if I took the shot even though I never had Chicken Pox?

Doctor

A:   Chicken pox (Varicella-Zoster) is a contagious viral infection, which usually occurs in childhood. Many people remember having the infection, or their parents report previous infection. If you are unsure if you have had chickenpox as a child, a laboratory blood test can be performed by your family doctor.
This detects the presence of antibodies directed against the varicella-zoster virus if you were previously exposed, and confirms immunity which remains life-long. There is a vaccine available if you have not previously been infected, and because it is a live, weakened form of the virus there is a small risk that you can develop a mild form of the disease post-vaccination.

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