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Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Relationship Between Chickenpox and Shingles

A highly viral disease. Chickenpox is common but mild in children. It is more severe in adults. Infection is easily spread via airborne droplets that are exhaled or expelled, example when coughing or sneezing, causing outbreaks in places where there are close person-to-person contacts. Epidemics are thus common in schools, military camps, dormitories, and crowded areas. A single attack gives a person a lifelong immunity. However, the virus may remain dormant in the nerve tissues and reappear later in life as shingles.

Shingles is skin rash due to an infection of the nerves and the skin. The condition causes very painful blistered rashes along path of the nerve. Sometimes this is referred to as "snake" by the Chinese. The chickenpox virus caused shingles. After a bout of chickenpox, the surviving virus lies dormant in certain sensory nerves for many years, and becomes reactivated when the immune system is weakened. It is thus, common in the sickly and elderly. A person can catch chickenpox from another person with shingles.

Herpes zoster or Shingles and sometimes referred to as "snake" by the Chinese.


Fever and malaise (headache, backache, sore throat, weakness,etc), runny nose which precedes the rash. Rash, which starts as small, very itchy red bumps on the upper arms and armpits, behind ears, and on the torso (chest, abdomen and back). The bumps turn into fluid-filled blisters and, after several days, dry up, crust over, and finally fall off on their own. Infected person will feel severe itch. Duration of illness is about 2 weeks.

Fever and malaise about 5 days before and extreme sensitive area of skin where the blisters will eventually appear. Severe pain may occur in the affected area, often mistaken for appendicitis if it occurs on the abdomen or migraine headache, if it occurs on the head. Low throbbing pain may also occur for a week. A stripe of blisters appears, starting as small red bumps, turning into larges blisters. Within one to a few weeks, the blisters dry, crust over, and fall off, leaving pitted scars. Blisters can appear one side of the body, or one side of the neck and arm, or the face. Infected person will feel severe itch.


Some complications may occur like secondary bacterial infections. Pheunomia, lung infection, which is common in adult. Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, in rare cases. If a pregnant woman gets infected a few days before delivery, the newborn could get a severe form of the disease.

Pain(post-herpetic neuralgia) which remains for months, and sometimes years after the blisters have cleared, due to nerve damage. Depression from chronic post-herpetic neuralgia. Eye complications and the Ramsay Hunt syndrome (with blisters in the ear, loss of taste in the front of the tongue and facial paralysis) if certain nerves of the head are affected. High fever and spread of the disease all over the body especially in the immunocompromised.


Infection by Varicella zoster virus. A person is highly infectious about two days before the rash appears and about a week after or when all blisters have crusted over. Chickenpox is transmitted via airborne nose and mouth secretions expelled when an infected person exhales, coughs or sneezes and also when in direct contact with infected person's ruptured blisters.

Infection of the nerve and skin by Varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus remains dormant in certain nerve cells then reactivates, causing shingles.

What You Can Do

The best way when get infected is to take a complete rest until all blisters have dried up. Full recovery comes a week to 10 days after the rash breaks out. Do not burst the blisters, scratch, or peel off the scabs to avoid spreading the viral infection, as well as to prevent secondary bacterial infections and scarring. For infected child, trim the child's fingernails or put mittens on his hands to keep him from scratching. Take anti fever medicine for the fever, this will also take care of the aches. Consult a doctor if you think your or your child has the symptoms and have not had the disease.

Stay at home and isolate yourself from other household members as much as possible, until the blister have cleared. Take some painkillers. Consult a doctor if the shingles appear on the face or head because damage to eyes is potentially serious. Elderly over 55 years is best to consult a doctor early (within 3 days) as post herpic neurolgia can be reduced by early antiviral. Also do consult a doctor if you are receiving anti-cancer therapy or on other immunosuppression drugs.


Children between the ages of 12 and 15 months can be protected by getting the chickenpox vaccine. For further protection Booster shot is recommended at the age of 4 to 6 years old. Those, 13 years and older who has never get infected by chickenpox also can get two doses of the chickenpox vaccine with at least 28 days apart.

Shingles vaccine is now available for people 60 years and older.

Related Tools / Resources
Shingles, Updated Edition: New Hope for an Old Disease
Chickenpox (Head-to-Toe Health)
Barbie Kelly Love 'N Care - Make Her Chickenpox Disappear (2000)


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