About the shingles virus

Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is a painful condition in which large sores appear on the skin. The shingles virus is the same as the chicken pox virus, and anyone who has had chicken pox can contract shingles. Shingles can be very serious and requires immediate medical attention. Learn more about shingles so that you can recognize it and help your child if he or she shows symptoms.

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What Is Shingles?

Shingles is characterized by large, flat red sores that appear on one side of the body, but there are often many earlier warning signs of infection. Some shingles symptoms are flu-like and begin a few days before the rash appears. Fever, headache and body aches are common symptoms that can be quickly followed by sensations of burning, itching or hypersensitivity of the skin. Pain at this stage can be mild or severe.

About one to two days after symptoms start, a flat, large rash will usually appear on the neck, shoulders or back. The rash is similar to hives, but unlike hives, it doesn't appear all over the body. Normally, the shingles rash appears as a belt-like pattern across one side of the body. The appearance of these blisters is often accompanied by significant pain.

Is Shingles Contagious?

The virus that causes chicken pox and shingles is contagious. You cannot "catch shingles" from someone suffering from this illness, but you can become infected with the virus and develop chicken pox if you haven't had it before. Therefore, if your child hasn't had chicken pox and hasn't been vaccinated against the virus, they are at risk of infection if they are around someone with shingles, until that person's rash is in the healing stages.

Shingles Disease Treatments

Shingles can be a very painful disease, but it is also treatable. Shingles pain relief is probably the most important part of treating this condition. Over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol or Advil may be enough, or your doctor might prescribe a stronger pain reliever. In severe cases, antivirals are used as a shingles treatment, but some doctors also choose to treat this disease with steroids.

If you suspect that your child has shingles, then make sure to call the doctor right away to minimize the pain and duration of the disease. Also, there is medical evidence that, because exposure to the chicken pox virus is what makes an individual vulnerable to shingles, vaccination against chicken pox may reduce your child's chances of developing shingles.