Facts about the shingles virus

Shingles disease is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same microscopic bug that causes chicken pox. Though shingles mostly affects people over the age of 50, children are also susceptible to the virus, especially those with compromised immune systems.

Children won't get shingles disease immediately if they are exposed to the virus; instead, they'll develop chicken pox first. Shingles disease occurs when the varicella zoster virus reactivates after lying dormant in the body for a period of time. If your children have never had chicken pox, it is unlikely they'll ever be affected by shingles disease.


Shingles Symptoms

Shingles symptoms include pain and a tingling sensation in the skin. After a few days, red and itchy water blisters will start to appear on one side of the face or body. The blisters can continue to develop for up to 5 days. The varicella virus that causes shingles is contagious as long as there are blisters present. Once the blisters crust over, the shingles virus becomes noninfectious, though it's still going to be necessary to treat the sensitive skin.

Shingles Treatment Options

Treatments for shingles include antiviral medications, which minimize the duration and severity of shingles outbreaks; pain and anti-itch medications may also be used. When children have shingles, they may have a difficult time controlling their impulses to scratch, so parents might find it necessary to cut their kids' fingernails extra-short to prevent them from scratching the blisters and causing infection.

Most instances of shingles don't result in any serious complications. However, in rare cases, bacterial infections, pneumonia, blindness, brain inflammation, hearing loss and even death can occur. Seek the attention of a pediatrician if your child shows symptoms.

Preventing Shingles in Children

The varicella zoster vaccine is the best way to prevent chicken pox in children; it, in turn, also protects against shingles disease outbreaks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), the varicella vaccine is 80 to 90 percent effective. Although the vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is still some controversy surrounding its long-term safety and effectiveness. If your child suffers from an illness that affects his or her immune system, talk to a pediatrician before exposing the child to the varicella vaccine.