Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). A person can only have shingles if they have had chicken pox.
A person with shingles may transmit VZV, which can cause chickenpox in someone who has never had chickenpox or has not received the chickenpox vaccine.
In rare cases, a person can get shingles from another person with shingles if they have
This article explores shingles and chickenpox in more detail, including their differences, and who can get them. It also discusses treatment, prevention, and when to consult a doctor.
Shingles and chickenpox are both caused by VZV, but they are not the same illness.
Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease. It typically occurs in children, but anyone can get it.
Shingles is also known as herpes zoster. It is a viral infection caused by the reactivation of VZV that has remained in the person’s body after they have recovered from chickenpox. It
Unlike a chickenpox rash that typically spreads throughout the body, a shingles rash spreads through a limited area. The blistery rash follows one or two adjacent stripes of skin area supplied by a nerve, typically on one side of the body or face.
Shingles can be painful and
In contrast, chickenpox can be more serious and
A person can get VZV, which causes chickenpox, from someone with shingles if they have
People cannot get shingles without having recovered from chickenpox. The reactivation of VZV in a person’s body causes shingles.
There is also a low risk of a person developing shingles after having direct contact with a shingles rash.
The chickenpox virus is more likely to spread VZV to others than shingles.
People who have never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine have the
Chickenpox is highly contagious and spreads very easily, especially in close contact areas such as daycares and schools. A person with chickenpox affects
If a child is in close proximity to another child with chickenpox, they may still be protected if they receive a chickenpox vaccination
The following individuals are at a
- people who are immunocompromised, such as those with leukemia and lymphoma, as well as individuals taking immunosuppressive medications such as steroids and chemotherapy drugs
- newborn children of parents with varicella, 5 days prior and up to 2 days after delivery
- premature babies
- pregnant people
Once a person has had chickenpox, they will have lifelong immunity, meaning they will not get chickenpox again.
However, the risk of developing shingles increases as a person’s VZV-specific cell-mediated immunity declines. This decline in immunity may be due to
- cancer, specifically lymphoma and leukemia
- immunosuppressive drugs, including those taken by solid organ and bone marrow transplant recipients
It is also important to note that females are more likely to develop shingles than males. Furthermore, Black people are about
Both shingles and chickenpox have no cure and tend to be self-limiting. Most people can allow the infections to run their course and wait for them to resolve entirely over several days without complications.
Chickenpox tends to resolve within
Antiviral medications for shingles, including acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir,
Doctors may also advise a person takes medications to relieve pain and discomfort caused by shingles.
Calamine lotion, wet compresses, and cool baths with colloidal oatmeal or baking soda can also help reduce itching from chickenpox and shingles.
The best prevention against chickenpox and shingles is receiving a vaccine. The recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV), called Shingrix, can
The CDC recommends Shingrix for healthy adults
The CDC also advises that children, adolescents, and adults who have never had chickenpox should receive
- are at a higher risk of complications. This may be due to:
- having a weakened immune system
- being younger than 1 year or older than 12 years
- have a high fever that rises above 102°F (38.8°C) or lasts longer than 4 days
- have a rash that may be infected — for example, very red, warm, tender, or leaking pus
- have difficulty walking
- have a severe cough
- have a stiff neck
- vomit frequently
- have difficulty waking up or feel confused
- have difficulty breathing
- have severe abdominal pain
- have a rash with bleeding or bruising
Shingles and chickenpox are two conditions caused by VZV. However, their course and symptoms are not the same.
Shingles can spread VZV, which causes chickenpox. In rare cases, a person may contract shingles from another person with shingles.
Not everyone is at risk of getting chickenpox. Those who have never had it or have not received a vaccine are most likely to get it.
The best way for people to prevent chickenpox and shingles is to get vaccinated. A person should consider speaking with a healthcare professional if they are at higher risk of complications from either condition.