Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV).
- people who are immunocompromised
- individuals who are taking medications to suppress the immune system
- people who had chickenpox as infants
Shingles is caused by a reactivation of VZV. This means that for a child to get shingles, they must have previously had the chickenpox virus, or,
Shingles cannot occur without prior exposure to VZV. The first time somebody is exposed to this virus, that person will develop chickenpox and not shingles.
The inactive virus stays inside the body, specifically in the nerve cells, after the chickenpox infection passes. It
When the virus is turned back on, a person gets shingles instead of chickenpox.
Your child may experience discomfort like itching, tingling, or pain on some part of the body or face as the first sign of shingles. The discomfort may be in a band (or nerve path) across one side of the trunk, including the stomach, chest, back, or buttocks. The sensation can range in intensity from
Along with the pain and rash, your child may have other signs of viral illness, including:
The rash generally goes away within 10 to 15 days.
- were exposed to chickenpox through pregnancy (babies who were exposed to the virus within
21 to 5 days before birthmay be at the highest risk of developing chickenpox after birth and shingles later in childhood)
- contracted chickenpox as a baby (children who had chickenpox before
age 1also have an elevated risk)
- have weakened immune systems (including kids who have health conditions that affect their immunity and those who take medications or treatments that lower immunity)
A note on race and ethnicity
Other possible, but rare, complications include:
- hearing issues
- encephalitis (brain inflammation)
- postherpetic neuralgia (nerve pain)
Children who are immunosuppressed or on immunosuppressants may be at the
Depending on your child’s age, your pediatrician may also suggest using over-the-counter (OTC) pain or prescription pain medications to ease nerve pain.
You should let your pediatrician know if you suspect your child may have shingles, even if the symptoms are mild. The location of the rash is important with regard to what complications may happen. Getting antiviral treatment within 72 hours may prevent complications and reduce the severity of the infection.
Other reasons to call your child’s doctor might include if your child develops new or worsening symptoms, or if their rash and other symptoms don’t go away within 2 weeks.
At your appointment, your child’s doctor will ask about their health history and about any symptoms they have. From there, the doctor may perform a physical exam to look at the rash and other symptoms.
While a physical exam of the rash is
Your child may experience pain and discomfort with shingles. First and foremost, call their doctor to see if antiviral treatment is appropriate for your child.
Other home care measures for shingles focus on managing pain and keeping your child comfortable.
- Offer a cool bath. Cool water can help ease the pain and itchiness on the skin. You might also consider an oatmeal bath for even more soothing power.
- Use a cool compress. A moist, cool compress (like a wet washcloth) can provide pain relief.
- Dress your child in loose-fitting clothing. Natural fibers like cotton allow your child’s skin to breathe.
- Provide distractions. Your little one may be better able to cope with discomfort if they’re distracted by a book, game, craft, or television show.
- Ask your doctor about anti-itch creams. Calamine lotion, for example, may help dry out blisters and soothe your child’s skin.
And be sure to cover your child’s rash and wash their hands
If your child has had chickenpox, there’s a chance they may develop shingles. Here’s what you need to know about prevention, sending your child to school, and how shingles differs from chickenpox.
Can children with shingles go to school?
Children who have shingles can pass on the chickenpox virus to children who haven’t had it or who haven’t been vaccinated against it. For this reason, it’s important to keep your child home from school, particularly when the rash is present.
Speak with your school nurse about when your child can return to school and what measures you might take to lower the risk of transmission to others.
Is it possible for your child to get shingles if they never had chickenpox?
What’s the difference between shingles and chickenpox?
Both the chickenpox and shingles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). The difference is that chickenpox is the infection you get with a first exposure to the virus, and shingles is the infection you get when something reactivates the dormant virus.
The rash also looks different. Chickenpox blisters can be found throughout the entire body. Shingles tends to be clustered in one area of the body, usually on the trunk or face.
Can you prevent pediatric shingles?
There’s no method to completely prevent shingles if you have already had exposure to VZV.
Researchers say that getting the chickenpox vaccine may provide protection against both chickenpox and shingles before age 17. In a 2019 study, children who had the chickenpox vaccine were 78 percent less likely to develop shingles than children who hadn’t had the vaccine.
While uncommon, children can develop shingles if they have previously had exposure to VZV.
Most people will only have one episode of shingles in their lifetime, though it’s possible to have repeat infections.
If you have concerns, speak with your child’s doctor about measures you can take to prevent shingles, such as getting a chickenpox vaccine.