All About Shingles in Children
The varicella-zoster virus is the cause of shingles.
It causes an itchy, painful skin rash that primarily affects adults over
- People who are affected by a disease.
- People taking medications to suppress the immune system.
- People who had the disease 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
A person gets shingles when the virus is turned back on.
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 rash and pain, your child may have other signs of illness.
- There is a high degree of fever.
- There is a throbbing head.
- “It’s cold.”
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)
- There is a disease called meningitis.
- postherpetic neuralgia (nerve pain)
Children who are immunosuppressed or on immunosuppressants may be at the
OTC and prescription pain medications can be used to ease nerve pain in children.
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.
“Your child’s doctor will ask about their health history and any symptoms they have at your appointment. 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. If your child is getting treatment for a disease, you should call their doctor.
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 virus to children who have not had it. It is important to keep your child home when the rash is present.
Any fluid from the rash can pass the virus to another person. The
Speak with your school nurse about when your child can return to school and what you can do to reduce the risk of transmission.
Is it possible for your child to get shingles if they never had chickenpox?
If your child has had the chickenpox vaccine, there’s a
What’s the difference between shingles and chickenpox?
The varicella-zoster virus is the cause of the shingles. When you first get exposed to the virus, you get the disease called chickenpox, and when you get shingles, you get the disease called the dormant virus.
The rash is different. Chickenpox blisters can be found all over the body. The shingles are usually on the trunk or face.
Can you prevent pediatric shingles?
If you have already had exposure to VZV, there is no way to prevent shingles.
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.
Children can develop shingles if they have previously been exposed to VZV.
Most people only have one episode of shingles in their lifetime, and it is possible to have a repeat.
If you have concerns, speak with your child’s doctor about measures you can take to prevent shingles, such as getting a chickenpox vaccine.