Is Shingles Contagious To Kids
Medical Review By: Ted Schiff, MD
Shingles is miserable. The painful, fluid-filled blisters can last weeks before they crust over and disappear, and in some people, nerve pain lasts even longer. If you have shingles, you probably wouldnt wish it on anyone. While youre waiting for the outbreak to end, if you have children or grandchildren you may be asking yourself, Is shingles contagious to kids and babies?
The answer is no, you cant give them or other adults shingles. But that doesnt mean there is no risk in exposing them. Kids can be vulnerable for another, surprising reason. Heres what you need to know about shingles transmission.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- Ive had chickenpox. Am I at risk of developing shingles?
- What is the best treatment for my shingles?
- The pain from shingles isnt going away. What can I do to make myself more comfortable?
- Im on treatment for shingles. When should I call my doctor if things dont get better?
- I have shingles and my children havent had the chickenpox vaccine. Should I get them vaccinated?
- Is the shingles vaccine right for me?
- Are there any risks associated with the shingles vaccine?
- Will my post-herpetic neuralgia ever go away?
- If Ive never had the chickenpox, should I still get the shingles vaccination?
What Foods To Avoid During A Shingles Outbreak
Shingles is a painful condition caused by the herpes zoster virus. Because about 1 million people in the United States get shingles yearly, it’s important to know how to treat the condition and what things to avoid with shingles.
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If you’ve had chickenpox, you’re susceptible to shingles, and your risk increases as you get older. While antiviral drugs may mitigate your symptoms while you have shingles, your diet is important too. Foods to avoid with shingles include low-nutrient foods and those with the amino acid l-arginine.
Shingles is a painful virus. Avoid foods with the amino acid l-arginine, which can encourage replication of the virus, and low-nutrient foods, which weaken the immune system.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Shingles
The varicella-zoster virus the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles is part of a group of viruses called herpes viruses. This group also includes the viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes.
If youve had chicken pox, you can get shingles. After the chicken pox is over, varicella-zoster lies inactive, mainly in spinal or cranial nerves. Sometimes the virus reactivates, and thats when it travels along the nerves to erupt as a rash on your skin, causing shingles.
Do You Always Get The Typical Rash If You Have Shingles
Occasionally, some people dont get a rash. If you have any of the other symptoms of shingles , see your healthcare provider sooner rather than later. There are effective treatments you can take early for shingles. Even if you dont have shingles, seeing your healthcare provider will help you get your condition diagnosed and treated.
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Other Health Problems Due To Shingles
Some people develop other health problems after the shingles rash clears, which include:
Postherpetic neuralgia : This is the most common. Occurring where you had the rash, PHN can cause constant tingling, burning, and pain. For others, the pain comes and goes.
Whether the pain is constant or intermittent, it can go on for a long time. You can have PHN for months, years, or the rest of your life. There is no way to know how long it will last.
The pain caused by PHN can become so severe that it interferes with your life, making everyday activities painful. A musician may no longer be able to play an instrument. Some people cannot walk comfortably. It may be difficult to bathe or get dressed. You may have trouble sleeping.
How to prevent PHN: If you have shingles, you can greatly reduce your risk of PHN by getting treated for shingles within 3 days of developing the rash.
Get treated for shingles within 3 days of developing the rash
Taking antiviral medication within 3 days of getting the shingles rash can: Reduce your risk of developing PHN Ease symptoms of shingles Clear the shingles rash more quickly
Other health problems that can develop after the shingles rash clears include:
Blindness or loss of some eyesight
Although rare, some people die of shingles.
Treatment can prevent these complications.
You can find out if you have a greater risk of developing shingles at, Shingles: Causes.
What Are The Complications Of Shingles
After the shingles rash has disappeared, you might continue to have nerve pain in that same area. Postherpetic neuralgia can last for months or years and become quite severe.
More than 10% of people who get shingles develop postherpetic neuralgia. Researchers dont know why some people get postherpetic neuralgia and others dont. It may be that nerves become more sensitive or that the virus may be invading and damaging the central nervous system.
Other complications include:
- Other types of nerve issues like numbness or itching.
- A bacterial infection of the shingles rash.
- Eye and ear inflammation if the rash is near these organs.
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What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Shingrix
Studies show that Shingrix is safe. The vaccine helps your body create a strong defense against shingles. As a result, you are likely to have temporary side effects from getting the shots. The side effects might affect your ability to do normal daily activities for 2 to 3 days.
Most people got a sore arm with mild or moderate pain after getting Shingrix, and some also had redness and swelling where they got the shot. Some people felt tired, had muscle pain, a headache, shivering, fever, stomach pain, or nausea. Some people who got Shingrix experienced side effects that prevented them from doing regular activities. Symptoms went away on their own in about 2 to 3 days. Side effects were more common in younger people.
You might have a reaction to the first or second dose of Shingrix, or both doses. If you experience side effects, you may choose to take over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Guillain-Barré syndrome , a serious nervous system disorder, has been reported very rarely after Shingrix. There is also a very small increased risk of GBS after having shingles.
If you experience side effects from Shingrix, you should report them to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System . Your doctor might file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS websiteexternal icon, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
If you have any questions about side effects from Shingrix, talk with your doctor.
Shingles Vaccination What You Should Know:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends shingles vaccine for people 60 years of age and older. This is a one-time vaccination to prevent shingles. There is no maximum age for getting the shingles vaccine.
Anyone 60 years of age or older should get the shingles vaccine, regardless of whether they recall having had chickenpox or not. Studies show that more than 99% of Americans ages 40 and older have had chickenpox, even if they dont remember getting the disease.
Your risk for getting shingles begins to rise around age 50. However, shingles vaccine is only recommended for persons age 60 and older because the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine have only been studied in this age group.
Even if you have had shingles, you can still receive the shingles vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific time that you must wait after having shingles before receiving the shingles vaccine. The decision on when to get vaccinated should be made with your healthcare provider. Generally, a person should make sure that the shingles rash has disappeared before getting vaccinated.
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Focus On Prevention Doctors Say
Prevention is the best way to avoid a shingles episode.
There is a vaccine that prevents the onset of shingles in people exposed to chickenpox. The CDC recommends that people age 60 and older get one dose of the vaccine. Vaccines are readily available at a doctors office and drug stores. In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration extended the vaccine use for people aged 50 to 59.
Wigand-Bolling said the vaccine reduces the incidence of shingles by 51% and the neuralgia associated with shingles by 67%. The doctor said the vaccine is injected and once vaccinated a person is protected for life.
Unless contraindicated because of pregnancy or being an organ transplant recipient or on chemotherapy, everyone over age 50 should be vaccinated, Wigand-Bolling said. I would recommend getting vaccinated to patients who may not have had chicken pox, or those who dont remember having chicken pox.
More than 90% of those identified in the study at increased risk of stroke and heart attack after a shingles episode hadn’t been vaccinated for shingles. The people in the study who had the vaccine still got shingles, it’s worth noting.
How Long Does A Shingles Outbreak Last
It can take three to five weeks from the time you begin to feel symptoms until the rash totally disappears.
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Are There Complications Of Shingles
Shingles can have complications that last long after the rash is gone, including:
- Brain inflammation or facial paralysis if it affects certain nerves
- Eye problems and vision loss if your rash was in or around your eye
- Pain that lasts long after the outbreak, called postherpetic neuralgia. It affects up to 1 in 5 people who get shingles.
What Are The Symptoms And Stages Shingles
Shingles symptoms appear in stages. At first, you may get headaches or feel like you have the flu, but without a fever. You may also be sensitive to light, have trouble thinking clearly or feel dizzy and weak.
A few days or even weeks later, an area of your body or face will feel itchy, tingly or painful. This is where a rash will appear. The rash will eventually turn into a cluster of blisters that are filled with fluid.
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What Types Of Health Care Professionals Treat Shingles
Shingles are most commonly diagnosed and treated by a primary care physician or an emergency medicine physician.
- For certain individuals who develop complications of shingles, a specialist in ophthalmology, neurology, or infectious disease may also be involved.
- Select patients with postherpetic neuralgia may require the care of a pain specialist.
Why Doesnt Having Chickenpox Earlier In Life Provide Immunity Against Having Shingles Later
After having chickenpox, your body doesnt rid your system of the virus. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of the spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. In most people, the virus simply stays there quietly and doesnt cause problems. Scientists arent always sure why the virus gets active again, but they know stress can be a cause.
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A Shingles Diet Helps
The shingles virus thrives when your immune system isn’t strong. What you eat can affect the strength of your immunity, explains the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Nutrients to include in your diet to boost your immune system when you have a shingles outbreak include:
- VitaminA from carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, red peppers, eggs and apricots
- VitaminC from citrus fruits, tomatoes and papaya
- VitaminE and zinc from sunflower seeds and fortified cereals
People with shingles may also benefit from eating more foods with vitamin B6, folate, iron and selenium.
Foods to avoid with shingles include those that degrade your immune system. Examples are fast and fried foods, anything high in saturated fat and processed foods. Skip the drive-through and head home to a homemade meal of grilled chicken, steamed broccoli and sweet potatoes.
Other foods to avoid with shingles are those with lots of added sugar and those made with white flour. You might be tempted to help yourself feel better with sweet treats, such as cookies or doughnuts, but these foods have no notable nutrients and do nothing to boost your body’s ability to fight the shingles infection.
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Can You Get Shingles If You Havent Had Chickenpox
No. You cant get shingles if youve never had chickenpox, but you can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles. If youve never had chickenpox and you come into direct contact with the oozing, blister-like rash of someone with shingles, the varicella-zoster virus can infect you and you would develop chickenpox.
Once youve had chickenpox, you could develop shingles at some point in your life. This is because the varicella-zoster virus never fully goes away after youve had chickenpox. It lies quietly inactive in your nerve tissue. Later in life, the virus may become active again and appears as shingles.
Can you get chickenpox more than once?
Its rare to get chickenpox twice in your life. Once youve had chickenpox, youre usually immune to it for the rest of your life. However, its not totally impossible. If you have a severely weakened immune system , you can get chickenpox a second time. If youve had chickenpox, you are more likely to get shingles at some point in your life than a repeat bout of chickenpox.
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When To Seek Medical Advice
Shingles is not usually serious, but you should see your GP as soon as possible if you recognise the symptoms. Early treatment may help reduce the severity of your symptoms and the risk of developing complications.
You should also see your GP if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system and you think you have been exposed to someone with chickenpox or shingles and haven’t had chickenpox before.
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Can Shingles Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent shingles is through vaccination. Vaccinate your children for chickenpox. This vaccine reduces their risk for getting chickenpox. You cant get shingles unless youve had chickenpox first.
When you are older, get the shingles vaccine. It is recommended for adults 50 years of age and older. It can prevent shingles. People who have had shingles should get the vaccine to help stop the disease from reoccurring. Common side effects of the vaccine are headache, plus redness, swelling, itching, and soreness at the injection site.
The shingles vaccine is not recommended for anyone who:
- Has had an allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin
- Has an allergy to any component of the shingles vaccine
- Has a weakened immune system due to conditions such as leukemia, HIV, or AIDS
- Is receiving treatment for cancer
- Is being treated with drugs that suppress their immune system, including high-dose steroids
- Is pregnant or might become pregnant within 4 weeks of getting the vaccine
Is It Possible To Prevent Shingles With A Vaccine
In October 2017, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved Shingrix, a non-live vaccine to prevent shingles. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices subsequently endorsed Shingrix as the preferred vaccine for the prevention of herpes zoster and its related complications in healthy adults 50 years of age and older. Shingrix is also recommended for adults who previously received the current shingles vaccineZostavax, which was approved by the FDA in 2006. Shingrix, a two-dose vaccine, was found to prevent shingles in more than 90% of patients who received it in clinical trials. By preventing shingles, Shingrix also decreases the incidence of postherpetic neuralgia. Not only does Shingrix provide superior efficacy across all age groups, but it is also felt to confer longer-lasting immunity than Zostavax, which has experienced temporary vaccine shortages due to supply issues. Shingrix is expected to be widely available to U.S. consumers in early 2018. During clinical trials, the most common side effects associated with Shingrix included pain, swelling, redness at the site of injection, headache, muscle aches, fever, chills, and upset stomach.
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