Chickenpox Versus Shingleswhats The Difference
Did you know? The same virus that causes chickenpox also causes shingles. Although shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus, they are not the same illness. Chickenpox is usually a milder illness that affects children. Shingles results from a reactivation of the virus long after the chickenpox illness has disappeared.
The chickenpox virus stays in the body even after recovery. Later in life, the virus can reactivate and cause shingles. If you have shingles, you can spread the varicella virus to people who have never had chickenpox or never received the chickenpox vaccine. These people will develop chickenpox, not shingles. It takes from 10 to 21 days after exposure to chickenpox or shingles for someone to develop chickenpox.
What are the symptoms?
- Initial symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, and feeling tired.
- An itchy blister-like rash, usually starting on the face, chest or back, follows 1-2 days later.
- The rash then spreads to the rest of the body, and new blisters continue to appear for about 3-4 days.
- Generally, within 1 week, the blisters dry out and scabs form and fall off.
How contagious is it?
Shingles Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. Someone with an infectious shingles rash can spread chickenpox if the other person has never had chickenpox. However, someone with shingles will not cause another person to develop shingles.
Is there a vaccine?
What About People That Never Got Chickenpox
While never getting chickenpox as a child may seem like a cause for celebration, the opposite is true. For people that never contracted the childhood disease, a risk still exists for contracting shingles as an adult. Specifically, someone that never had chickenpox can contract the disease from a person infected with shingles, especially during the blister phase of the virus.
Age And Weak Immune System Increase Your Risk Of Getting Shingles
Although anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles, your risk of developing shingles increases with age. Most people get shingles in their 50s or later in life.
Its rare to get shingles before 40 years of age. Scientists are still studying why this happens. Its likely that your immune system keeps the virus dormant. When the immune system starts to weaken, which may start in your 50s, the virus can wake up.
Age increases your risk of getting shingles
Many people who had chickenpox dont remember having it and are unaware that they can get shingles.
Anyone who has a weakened immune system also has an increased risk of getting shingles. This includes people who have:
Some cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma
Human immunodeficiency virus
To take medication that suppresses the immune system, such as people living with an organ transplant, severe psoriasis, or advanced psoriatic arthritis
To receive certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy
Its Rare To Get Chickenpox A Second Time
“It’s possible, but it would be unusual,” Dr. Parsons says. In fact, now that there’s widespread use of a chickenpox vaccine, many kids don’t get chickenpox at all, she says. The vaccinewhich involves two dosesis about 90% effective at preventing the disease entirely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
Are Chickenpox And Shingles Prevented With The Same Vaccine
Yes, both chickenpox and shingles can be prevented by getting vaccinated against chickenpox as a child or adult. The varicella-zoster virus is a highly contagious virus, but with proper vaccination, there is very little risk of getting it.
Although chickenpox and shingles are both viruses, they are not prevented with the same vaccine. The chickenpox vaccine is made from pieces of live varicella zoster virus , while the shingles vaccine is made from dead VZV proteins that have been weakened by heat treatment. Both vaccines protect people against chickenpox, but only the shingles vaccine protects people against shingles. It is recommended by the CDC to get the shingles vaccine and receive the chickenpox vaccine.
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Shingles And Contagious Transmission
Chickenpox is highly contagious. A person with the infection can easily pass it on to another person via direct contact or through the air.
If you have shingles, however, you cannot give it to another person. Instead, you can transmit the varicella-zoster virus to someone, and they can develop chickenpox if they are not immune to it.
When shingles develops into open blisters, the fluid inside the blisters contains the infectious virus.
Because of this, anyone who comes into direct contact with these blisters or inhales infected droplets can contract the virus if they are not immune to chickenpox. However, the rates of transmission are low.
Experts say that the virus cannot spread when the rash crusts. The risk of spreading also reduces when you cover the rash properly and wash your hands well.
What If Ive Never Had Chickenpox
Almost everyone born before 1980 tests positive for exposure to varicella, Orrange said. Thats why the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices considers people born before 1980 immune to the varicella virus. Even if you never broke out in the telltale rash, if youre 38 years old or older, you almost certainly have the virus lying dormant in your system.
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Do You Need To Visit A Doctor For Shingles And Chickenpox
Although shingles can be a very unpleasant experience, it is usually non-fatal. However, if left untreated, it can lead to permanent nerve damage and reduce the quality of life. Therefore, it is important to get treatment as soon as possible if you experience any symptoms of shingles.
The most common symptom of shingles is pain and itching on one side of the body. Other symptoms may include fever, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor as soon as possible to rule out other more serious conditions.
How Long Will The Effects Last
The rash from shingles will heal in 1 to 3 weeks and the pain or irritation will usually go away in 3 to 5 weeks. When shingles occurs on the head or scalp, the symptoms usually go away eventually, but it may take many months.
If the virus damages a nerve, you may have pain, numbness, or tingling for months or even years after the rash is healed. This is called postherpetic neuralgia. This chronic condition is most likely to occur after a shingles outbreak in people over 50 years old. Taking antiviral medicine as soon as the shingles is diagnosed may help prevent this problem.
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How To Avoid Adult Chickenpox
Getting vaccinated against chickenpox is the best way to avoid chickenpox infection so you wont have shingles later in life. While a vaccine doesnt provide complete immunity to chickenpox, it can limit the severity of symptoms should you get infected.
Vaccinating children early lowers the risk of a chickenpox infection significantly. The two-dose vaccine is typically administered at about 15 months of age and then again at around 4 to 6 years of age.
If youre older than 13 and have never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine, you can still get vaccinated. The process involves two doses, at least 28 days apart.
It can be tough to avoid getting a chickenpox infection from someone with chickenpox, because people with chickenpox are contagious from one to two days before the rash appears until the lesions scab over. The virus is spread through direct contact with fluid from the blisters, breathing in aerosols of the blister fluid, and possibly also by respiratory secretions.
If youve never had chickenpox, you should also avoid contact with anyone who has shingles. In shingles, the virus can be transmitted through direct contact with fluid from the blisters. It only can do this while the rash is present, and the person remains contagious until the blistering rash crusts over.
Shingles Symptoms Before Rash
Shingles develops in two stages. The first is called the prodromal period.
Shingles is a reactivation of the varicella virus, which is what causes chickenpox. After an initial infection, the virus lays dormant in the body. Once reactivated, which can happen years down the line, shingles results.
Often, the earliest signs this is occurring are similar to what youd expect at the start of any infection. These symptoms sometimes occur at times when youre feeling stressed or run down. They are also systemic, meaning they affect the whole body.
You may assume youre just overtired or coming down with a cold when you actually have shingles.
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Takeaway: Can You Get Shingles If You Have Never Had Chickenpox
Approximately one in five people who contract chickenpox will develop shingles later in life. Shingles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. It can cause severe pain, skin redness, and blisters that may last for several weeks or even months. Shingles can be frustrating and debilitating but is not usually life-threatening. If you are at risk, get vaccinated. If you have never had chickenpox, speak to your doctor about the varicella vaccine.
Natural Remedies For Chickenpox And Shingles Rashes
There are a few natural remedies for chickenpox and shingles rashes that can be helpful. For chickenpox, some people recommend taking oatmeal baths or applying a topical cream such as calamine lotion. For shingles, some people recommend taking ibuprofen or drinking lots of fluids. It is important to talk to your infectious disease doctor about which remedies are right for you, as not all remedies will work for everyone.
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I Think I Have Shingles What Should I Do
Repeat after me: Call your doctor right away, within 72 hours. The earlier the better.
You should start taking an antiviral medication, preferably valacyclovir or famciclovir, within 72 hours of your symptoms starting to help reduce the severity of the infection, how long your skin rash lasts, and how painful it gets. If its been more than 72 hours, you should still talk to your provider. Treatment can still help, especially if you still see new rashes showing up.
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Q: If Youve Never Had Chickenpox Can You Get Shingles From Someone Who Has It
A: No, but you can get chickenpox. If someone has shingles, and they are at the blister stage where they are contagious, they could transmit the virus to you, and you would get chickenpox.
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Shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus, called the varicella-zoster virus. Typically, when youre a child and you get chickenpox, your body fights off the virus, but it doesnt get rid of it. The virus goes into hiding somewhere at the base of a nerve in your body for years and years and just stays there quietly. We call that latency.
Then, at some point when you get older, about 50 or even more so at 60, the virus decides to wake up and go for a walk. The pain and the rash start up again, this time as shingles. I almost think of shingles as being chickenpox the sequel.
So if you never had chickenpox and someone you know has shingles, if their rash has turned to blisters and you touch the blisters, you could contract the virus and get chickenpox.
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Why You Cant Get Shingles But You Can Still Get Chickenpox
Shingles are a reactivation of the same virus that caused chickenpox. Therefore, you need to have had exposure to VZV earlier in life.
Chickenpox tends to be more prevalent in children and is transmitted very quickly through groups. Even so, its still a real risk for adults. Chickenpox is a highly infectious disease that can spread to about 90 percent of unvaccinated household contacts of a person who has it.
You Cannot Get Shingles From Someone With Chickenpox
You cannot get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox.
But you can get chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before.
When people get chickenpox, the virus remains in the body. It can be reactivated later and cause shingles if someone’s immune system is lowered.
This can be because of stress, certain conditions, or treatments like chemotherapy.
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What Tests Are Available For Chickenpox And Shingles
There are a few different tests that can be done to see if youve had chickenpox or shingles. These tests include a skin test, a blood test, and an MRI.
Both chickenpox and shingles can be diagnosed by a skin rash diagnosis and a blood test to check for the presence of the virus. If either condition is left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems, including pneumonia. There is no cure for either chickenpox or shingles, but both conditions can be treated with antiviral medications and rest.
When Should I See My Doctor
See your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any symptoms of shingles. Starting treatment with antiviral medicines within 3 days of the rash appearing should reduce the severity of symptoms and the risk of further complications, including post-herpetic neuralgia.
See your doctor straight away if you have symptoms of shingles and are experiencing the following:
- symptoms that affect your eye area
- a temperature of 38°C or higher
You should also see your doctor if you are pregnant, or have a weakened immune system due to medicine that suppresses the immune system, or a condition that weakens your immune system.
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So Should I Get The Chickenpox Vaccine Or The Shingles Vaccine
For most healthy people, if youre between 30 and 50 years old, theres no need for either vaccine, Orrange said. There are some exceptions, including health care workers, pregnant women, teachers and those who are HIV-positive. If youre an adult who hasnt received the vaccine or you think youve never been exposed to chickenpox, you can ask your primary care doctor to run a blood test called varicella titers. It shows your level of chickenpox immunity.
But if youre 50 or older, you can and should get the new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, whether or not you remember getting chickenpox in childhood. Its given as a shot in two doses, two to six months apart.
Theres also an older shingles vaccine called Zostavax. Its given to those 50 and over with certain medical conditions, and to people 60 and over. Zostavax is 19 times stronger than the chickenpox vaccine. Its unknown, by the way, whether the shingles vaccines protect against the varicella virus that would lead to chickenpox in adults who were never exposed. The makers of Shingrix or Zostavax would have to run a study on that question, Orrange said, but theres little incentive to do so since a chickenpox vaccine already exists.
Facial Pain And Eye Damage
Between 10% and 15% of the time, shingles affects the trigeminal gangliona triple-branched nerve that provides sensation to structures in the face. The medical term for head or facial pain due to shingles is painful trigeminal neuropathy attributed to herpes zoster.
Specifically, the trigeminal ganglion involves the eye the cheek and the mandibular branch . Of these, the ophthalmic branch is the one most commonly affected by herpes zoster.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology , 25% of the 300,000 to 500,000 cases of shingles that occur each year are herpes zoster ophthalmicus .
HZO can affect any part of the eye, from the optic nerve to the conjunctiva . Without antiviral treatment, almost half of people who have shingles near the eye will experience eye damage or even lose an eye, so its vital to see an ophthalmologist immediately.
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Stay Away From Certain Groups Of People If You Have Shingles
You cannot spread shingles to others. But people who have not had chickenpox before could catch chickenpox from you.
This is because shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus.
Try to avoid:
- pregnant people who have not had chickenpox before
- people with a weakened immune system like someone having chemotherapy
- babies less than 1 month old unless you gave birth to them, as your baby should be protected from the virus by your immune system
What Shingles Symptoms Come Next
After about 1 to 5 days, a shingles rash will appear on one side of the body, often in a single characteristic band around one side of the torso or face.
The painful rash will then form itchy or burning blister-like sores filled with a clear fluid. The blisters will scab over in 7 to 10 days. Theyll gradually grow smaller before disappearing.
Shingles rash symptoms commonly last between 2 to 4 weeks.
Topical Pain Relief Products
e.g. lidocaine preparations , capsaicin cream
- topical pain relievers can be used in addition to oral pain relief medicines
- lidocaine is a local anaesthetic and numbs the skin
- do not apply lidocaine to broken or irritated skin avoid contact with eyes
- capsaicin cream should NOT be used on active shingles and may only be used to help with post-herpetic neuralgia . It should be discontinued if symptoms persist for longer than 2 weeks
- do not apply capsaicin cream to broken or irritated skin avoid contact with eyes