What’s the link between chickenpox and shingles?
Keep reading for important information on chickenpox and shingles, plus tips on dealing with the pain associated with shingles.
What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral infection that causes the characteristic red, itchy, fluid-filled blisters. Blisters can appear all over the body and the infection could last 1 to 2 weeks.
Although adults can get chickenpox, it is more common in children. However, when adults get chickenpox, the symptoms are more severe than in kids and could lead to complications.
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes shingles. Once you have had chickenpox, although it is not likely to recur, the virus could remain dormant in your body for years.
When the varicella-zoster virus gets reactivated, it causes shingles, which is a very painful viral infection.
Chickenpox is completely preventable, and here in Singapore the chickenpox vaccination can be given to your baby when he is 12-18 months old.
What is shingles and who is at risk of getting it?
Shingles, a painful skin rash which, in most cases, appears on one side of the body, is caused by the re-activation of the dormant varicella-zoster virus.
It is also known as zoster or herpes zoster.
Both children and adults can get shingles if they have previously gotten chickenpox. Although it is not fully known why the varicella-zoster virus re-awakens, experts say that stress and decreased immunity as one ages could trigger the onset of shingles.
The Singapore Health Promotion Board states that those over the age of 60 and those with weakened immune systems (HIV and cancer patients) have a higher risk of getting shingles.
Shingles is not as contagious as chickenpox and cannot be passed to another person. However the varicella-zoster virus is contagious.
Therefore, someone who has shingles can pass on the virus to another person, but it may materialize as chickenpox.
Unlike chickenpox, where the virus can be transmitted through direct contact, coughing and sneezing, shingles can be transmitted only through the fluid within the blisters.
If you have had chickenpox in the past, there is a possibility that you will get shingles, but this is not certain. In any case, you may want to speak to your doctor about getting the shingles vaccination.
The shingles vaccine is not suitable for everyone. Pregnant mothers, people with compromised immune systems, and people who are allergic to components in the shingles vaccine (such as gelatine and neomycin) cannot take the vaccine.
Tips for dealing with the pain caused by shingles
- Once a patient is diagnosed with shingles, their doctor may give them an antiviral medication. Although this won’t erase the symptoms, it could significantly reduce their severity.
Thus, it is very important to start the antiviral medication early on for best results.
- Doctors may also prescribe pain medication to help deal with the pain.
- Avoid scratching and breaking the blisters, as they will take longer to heal if you do so.
- Calamine lotion could reduce the itchiness and soothe the rash.
- Always keep the area of the rash clean and dry. You can try using either a baby prickly heat powder or corn starch to keep the blisters dry.
- Bathe with cool water, which will soothe the skin, as opposed to warm water that could irritate the rash even further.
- A cool compress may help soothe the blisters.
-If the itching is severe, doctors may prescribe a hydrocortisone cream or oral antihistamines to relieve the itching.
- Getting plenty of rest will help your body recover faster.
- If the pain persists after the blisters are gone, depending on the symptoms, doctors may prescribe pain medication or other forms of medication that would help you.
We hope this information about chickenpox and shingles was helpful to you. What are your thoughts on the chickenpox and shingles vaccinations? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.