Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Shingles is very contagious and can easily be transmitted from the infected person to the baby; they will suffer from shingles if they have already suffered from chickenpox in their life. The rash usually appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the right or left side of the trunk. The rash can also appear on the limbs and the face, but this is less common. The varicella-zoster virus causes both chickenpox and shingles, but shingles result from the reactivation of the virus after it has previously caused chickenpox. This is because the virus remains in the body even after recovery from chickenpox.[i]
Both shingles and chickenpox start as a rash, but painful blisters later appear for shingles instead of the red, itchy blisters of chickenpox (read about chickenpox symptoms). Babies suffering from shingles may feel headaches, tingling, itching, and pain before the appearance of the rash. These symptoms are not present in babies with chickenpox. Other symptoms of shingles include nausea, diarrhea, chills, and gastrointestinal upset. The shingles virus attacks neurons so, when other symptoms have disappeared and the patient has recovered, it’s possible to experience postherpetic neuralgia. This is a serious complication of shingles characterized by nerve pain while sleeping and taking a shower. Once an individual has suffered from chickenpox, they are immune for the rest of their life. In contrast to this, a patient who has suffered from shingles once can suffer from it again for the second or third time.[ii]
Treatment for shingles includes both home remedies and medical treatment:
Antiviral drugs are available to reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the length of recovery. These medicines include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir and are more effective when used as soon as the symptoms appear. For relieving pain, over the counter pain killers can be used.1
[i] Torpy, J. (2011). Shingles. JAMA, 305(2), 212. doi: 10.1001/jama.302.1.112
[ii] Gould, D. (2014). Varicella zoster virus: chickenpox and shingles. Nursing Standard, 28(33), 52-58. doi: 10.7748/ns2014.04.28.33.52.e8249
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