The diagnosis of chickenpox is primarily based on the signs and symptoms, with typical early symptoms followed by a characteristic rash. Confirmation of the diagnosis is by examination of the fluid within the vesicles of the rash, or by testing blood for evidence of an acute immunologic response.
Vesicular fluid can be examined with a Tzanck smear, or by testing for direct fluorescent antibody. The fluid can also be "cultured", whereby attempts are made to grow the virus from a fluid sample. Blood tests can be used to identify a response to acute infection (IgM) or previous infection and subsequent immunity (IgG).
Prenatal diagnosis of fetal varicella infection can be performed using ultrasound, though a delay of 5 weeks following primary maternal infection is advised. A PCR (DNA) test of the mother's amniotic fluid can also be performed, though the risk of spontaneous abortion due to the amniocentesis procedure is higher than the risk of the baby's developing fetal varicella syndrome.