We all know that chickenpox is a common childhood disease. But did you know that it can return in adulthood as shingles? This article will explore the topic of chickenpox and shingles, including their similarities and differences.
Chickenpox versus shingles
Chickenpox is a disease that almost everyone will have at some point in their lives. It is most contagious in the first two to five days and, if not treated early on, it can lead to serious complications to require hospitalization for a child or adult.
The virus does not always stay active after you’ve had chickenpox as a child; it’s only when your immunity starts weakening later in life that the virus that has remained dormant in the body reactivates and develops into shingles.
Shingles starts with pain in the skin on your back, chest or stomach before it eventually evolves into blisters. The virus typically stays active for about four to six weeks and can be very painful during this time.
The most common complication of shingles is post-herpetic neuralgia, which causes mild to extreme pain that lasts for months or even years after the blisters from shingles heal.
The same virus, varicella-zoster virus, cause both chickenpox and shingles. The main difference between them is that they typically affect different parts of your body; chickenpox in childhood affects mainly your head and torso, while adult shingles usually only affects a person’s back or chest.
Common symptoms of chickenpox include fever, headache, and fatigue.
On the other hand, common symptoms for shingles include pain in the skin on your back or chest that can be severe enough to restrict a person’s movement; this is often accompanied by itching of the affected area before blisters appear.
Other differences between chickenpox and shingles include the severity of the disease, complication rates, and how long you are contagious.
Shingles can weaken a person’s immunity making them more susceptible to other illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Chickenpox does not typically have any severe complications in children, but adults with weakened immune systems may develop pneumonitis from chickenpox, which may be severely debilitating.
Can one get both chickenpox and shingles at the same time?
The simple answer is no; it is not possible to get both chickenpox and shingles simultaneously.
The same virus causes the two, but one typically first develops chickenpox before developing shingles later in life when the dormant virus reactivates when a person is immunocompromised or under stress. Risk factors for shingles also include a person’s age or even pregnancy.
If you’ve had chickenpox as a child, then it may provide you some protection against re-infection. However, this does not mean that the virus is completely eliminated from the body.
The best prevention method against chickenpox and shingles is to get vaccinated.
The chickenpox vaccine is recommended for children under the age of 13, with the first dose being administered when the child is 12 through 15 months old and the second dose at age 4 to 6 years old. However, people who are older than 13 years old can still get the chickenpox vaccine. Typically, 2 doses will be administered 28 days apart.
For people above the age of 60, it is recommended that you get the shingles vaccine even if you have had chickenpox earlier in life. Typically, 2 doses will be administered 2 to 6 months apart.
It is recommended that you contact your healthcare provider to determine if you can be vaccinated and which vaccines you require. This will help to protect you and the community around you from contracting the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles.