Chickenpox and Shingles
  • Chickenpox is a viral infection in which a person develops extremely itchy blisters all over the body. It used to be one of the classic childhood diseases. However, it has become much less common since the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine.

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Causes/Risk Factors

  • Chickenpox can be spread very easily to others. You may get chickenpox from touching the fluids from a chickenpox blister, or if someone with the disease coughs or sneezes near you. Even those with mild illness may be contagious
  • A person with chickenpox become contagious 1 to 2 days before their blisters appear. They remain contagious until all the blisters have crusted over.
  • Severe chickenpox symptoms are more common in children whose immune system does not work well because of an illness or medicines such as chemotherapy and steroids.


  • Symptoms before a rash can include: fever, stomach ache, and Headache
  • The chickenpox rash occurs about 10 to 21 days after coming into contact with someone who had the disease. The average child develops 250 to 500 small, itchy, fluid-filled blisters over red spots on the skin.
  • Treatments can include: Avoid scratching areas, wear light clothing, take oatmeal or cornstarch baths, moisturizer, and over the counter medicine
  • Medicine can be prescribed by a doctor, however it has to be taken within 24 hours of the rash appearing

  •  A vaccine usually prevents the chickenpox disease completely or makes the illness very mild.
  • Because chickenpox is airborne and very contagious before the rash even appears, it is difficult to avoid.

  • Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful, blistering skin rash due to the varicella-zoster virus, the virus that causes chickenpox.
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Causes, incidence, and risk factors

After you get chickenpox, the virus remains inactive (becomes dormant) in certain nerves in the body. Shingles occurs after the virus becomes active again in these nerves years later.
The reason the virus suddenly become active again is not clear. Often only one attack occurs.
Shingles may develop in any age group, but you are more likely to develop the condition if:
  • You are older than 60
  • You had chickenpox before age 1
  • Your immune system is weakened by medications or disease
If an adult or child has direct contact with the shingles rash on someone and has not had chickenpox as a child or a chickenpox vaccine, they can develop chickenpox, rather than shingles.


The first symptom is usually one-sided pain, tingling, or burning. The pain and burning may be severe and is usually present before any rash appears.
Red patches on the skin, followed by small blisters, form in most people.
  • The blisters break, forming small ulcers that begin to dry and form crusts. The crusts fall off in 2 to 3 weeks. Scarring is rare.
  • The rash usually involves a narrow area from the spine around to the front of the belly area or chest.
  • The rash may involve face, eyes, mouth, and ears.
Additional symptoms may include:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chills
  • Difficulty moving some of the muscles in the face
  • Fever and chills
  • General ill-feeling
  • Headache
  • Hearing loss
You may also have pain, muscle weakness, and a rash involving different parts of your face if shingles affects a nerve in your face.


  • Avoid touching the rash and blisters of persons with shingles or chickenpox if you have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.
  • A herpes zoster vaccine is available. It is different than the chickenpox vaccine. Older adults who receive the herpes zoster vaccine are less likely to have complications from shingles. Adults older than 60 should receive the herpes zoster vaccine as part of routine medical care.