Medication Guide App

Varicella virus vaccine Side Effects

It is possible that some side effects of varicella virus vaccine may not have been reported. These can be reported to the FDA here. Always consult a healthcare professional for medical advice.

For the Consumer

Applies to varicella virus vaccine: subcutaneous powder for solution

As well as its needed effects, varicella virus vaccine may cause unwanted side effects that require medical attention.

If any of the following side effects occur while taking varicella virus vaccine, check with your doctor or nurse immediately:

More common
  • Fever over 39 °C (102 °F)
Less common
  • Blue lips and fingernails
  • chest pain
  • chickenpox-like skin rash
  • coughing that sometimes produces a pink frothy sputum
  • decreased urine output
  • difficult, fast, or noisy breathing, sometimes with wheezing
  • dilated neck veins
  • extreme fatigue
  • general feeling of discomfort or illness
  • increased sweating
  • irregular breathing
  • irregular heartbeat
  • irritability
  • pale skin
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of the ankles, face, fingers, feet, or lower legs
  • tightness in the chest
  • troubled breathing
  • weight gain
  • wheezing
  • Black, tarry stools
  • blood in the urine or stools
  • chills
  • confusion
  • convulsions (seizures) with high fever
  • cough
  • difficulty with breathing or swallowing
  • fever
  • hives
  • itching, especially of the feet or hands
  • muscle or joint pain
  • pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • reddening of the skin, especially around the ears
  • severe or continuing headache
  • stiff neck
  • swelling of the glands in the neck
  • thickening of bronchial secretions
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • unusual tiredness or weakness, sudden and severe
  • vomiting
Incidence not known
  • Back pain, sudden and severe
  • bleeding gums
  • blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
  • bloating or swelling of the face, arms, hands, lower legs, or feet
  • bloody nose
  • blurred vision
  • bruising more easily
  • convulsions (seizures)
  • dizziness
  • fast heartbeat
  • headache
  • heavier menstrual periods
  • inability to move the arms and legs
  • inability to speak
  • itching
  • large, flat, blue, or purplish patches in the skin
  • large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
  • loss of bladder control
  • muscle spasm or jerking of all extremities
  • painful blisters on the trunk of the body
  • painful knees and ankles
  • pale skin
  • pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • raised red swellings on the skin, buttocks, legs, or ankles
  • rapid weight gain
  • red irritated eyes
  • red skin lesions, often with a purple center
  • shakiness and unsteady walk
  • skin rash
  • slurred speech
  • sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips
  • stomach pain
  • sudden loss of consciousness
  • sudden numbness and weakness in the arms and legs
  • swelling or puffiness of the face
  • swollen or painful glands
  • temporary blindness
  • tingling of the hands or feet
  • unsteadiness, trembling, or other problems with muscle control or coordination
  • unusual weight gain or loss
  • weakness in the arm or leg on one side of the body, sudden and severe
  • weakness of the muscles in your face

Some varicella virus vaccine side effects may not need any medical attention. As your body gets used to the medicine these side effects may disappear. Your health care professional may be able to help you prevent or reduce these side effects, but do check with them if any of the following side effects continue, or if you are concerned about them:

More common
  • Fever of 37.7 °C (100 °F) or higher, but not above 39 °C (102 °F)
  • hives, itching, pain, redness, soreness, tenderness, or warmth at the injection site
Less common
  • Common cold
  • congestion
  • constipation
  • cracked, dry, or scaly skin
  • diaper rash
  • diarrhea
  • disturbed sleep
  • dry skin
  • earache
  • heat rash or prickly heat
  • lack or loss of strength
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aching or cramping
  • muscle stiffness
  • nausea
  • nervousness
  • runny nose
  • skin rash, encrusted, scaly, and oozing
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • stuffy nose
  • swelling
  • swollen joints
  • teething
Incidence not known
  • Bacterial skin infections
  • body aches or pain
  • burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles", or tingling feelings
  • difficulty with moving
  • dryness or soreness of the throat
  • hoarseness
  • pain, redness, swelling, tenderness, or warmth on the skin
  • red rash with watery, yellow-colored, or pus filled blisters
  • tender, swollen glands in the neck
  • thick yellow to honey-colored crusts
  • voice changes

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to varicella virus vaccine: subcutaneous powder for injection


The most frequent side effects have included fever, injection site reactions, and varicella-like rash.[Ref]


Local side effects have included injection site pain, soreness, swelling, erythema, rash, pruritus, hematoma, induration, and stiffness in 19.3% of patients and a varicella-like rash at the injection in 3.8% of patients.[Ref]


Other side effects have included fever with oral temperature >=102 degrees F (39 degrees C) and febrile seizures (in <0.1% of children).[Ref]


Dermatologic side effects have included rash, contact rash, heat rash/prickly heat, eczema/dry skin/dermatitis, and itching; however, causality was not determined. A generalized varicella-like rash has been reported in 5.5% of adolescents and adults within 7 to 21 days after the first dose and in 0.9% within 0 to 23 days after the second dose. Stevens-Johnson syndrome, erythema multiforme, Henoch-Schoenlein purpura, secondary bacterial skin and soft tissue infections including impetigo and cellulitis, and herpes zoster have also been reported.[Ref]


Gastrointestinal side effects have included diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting, teething, abdominal pain, nausea, and constipation; however, causality was not determined.[Ref]


Hypersensitivity reactions have included anaphylaxis, allergic rash, and hives.[Ref]


Hematologic side effects have included thrombocytopenia.[Ref]


Immunologic side effects have included chronic disseminated verrucous skin lesions associated with a herpes zoster infection which developed in a child who received immunosuppressive chemotherapy starting 5 days postvaccination. The herpes zoster infection developed 3 months after initiation of chemotherapy and then developed into verrucous lesions. DNA isolated from a lesion biopsy revealed the presence of the Oka vaccine strain of varicella virus, which was acyclovir-resistant.[Ref]


Musculoskeletal side effects have included myalgia and arthralgia; however, causality was not determined.[Ref]

Nervous system

Nervous system side effects have included irritability, nervousness, fatigue, and disturbed sleep; however, causality was not determined. Encephalitis, cerebrovascular accident, transverse myelitis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Bell's palsy, ataxia, nonfebrile seizures, dizziness, and paresthesia have also been reported.[Ref]


Respiratory side effects have included upper and lower respiratory illness, cough, and pneumonitis (in <1% of children); however, causality was not determined.[Ref]


Headache, lymphadenopathy, otitis, eye complaints, and stiff neck have also been reported; however, causality was not determined.[Ref]


1. "Product Information. Varivax (varicella virus vaccine live)." Merck & Co, Inc, West Point, PA.

2. Levin MJ, Dahl KM, Weinberg A, Giller R, Patel A, Krause PR "Development of Resistance to Acyclovir during Chronic Infection with the Oka Vaccine Strain of Varicella-Zoster Virus, in an Immunosuppressed Child." J Infect Dis 188 (2003): 954-9

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