Healthy Living

Can I Get Shingles If I Didn’t Have The Chicken Pox?

Can I Get Shingles If I Didn’t Have The Chicken Pox?

Key Takeaways

  • Individuals who neither got chicken pox nor its vaccination in the past cannot get shingles if exposed to those with it.
  • Shingles are highly infectious and contagious immediately after the development of the rash.
  • Double dosage of the chicken pox vaccine gives 98% assurance from chicken pox infection and currently is the best way for preventing the two conditions.

As a child, you may not have contracted chicken pox, and you are wondering if you can get shingles. The answer is a simple yes. However, you don’t need to panic or get sweaty over this revelation. It does not mean that you must get shingles in the future, but there is a possibility you could contract it, especially for those who never got chicken pox or its vaccine. Shingles can also later develop in any individual or child who has had chicken pox in the past. Adults are more vulnerable to the shingles infection as compared to children and teenagers. A clear understanding of the two conditions (i.e. chicken pox and shingles) is necessary to those interested in avoiding contracting either of them in the future. That is the whole purpose upon which this article is based.

Relationship Between Shingles and Chicken Pox

The virus varicella zoster is responsible for causing both chicken pox and shingles. Once you develop chicken pox and it gets cured, the virus remains inactive, as it’s hidden from the immune system of your body. In this inactive period, it’s free from attack as it resides in your nervous system. After a considerable amount of time varying between years and decades, varicella virus can come back to you in the form of herpes zoster, which is the other name for shingles. The rash that develops is usually found only in a region served by the particular nerve.

Individuals who neither got chicken pox nor its vaccination in the past cannot get shingles if exposed to those with it. However, they can get chicken pox. They do not contract shingles, because the virus exiting the nervous system is what is referred to as shingles. Those who received vaccination have low chances of getting chicken pox. Still, the vaccinated ones can develop shingles from themselves. The vaccine constitutes a live virus designed to make the chicken pox virus weaker with hopes that the live virus won’t make you sick. This is done to develop immunity against the virus by making our immune system recognize or develop a memory so that if the virus is encountered in the future, the immune system can produce large number of antibodies to kill the virus. After the introduction, the vaccine was suspected by many to have the potential of causing shingles, even in people who have never had chicken pox. The suspicion cannot be ruled out, as there have been numerous reported cases, but there are only a few cases of this.

Shingles are highly infectious and contagious immediately after the development of the rash. Formation of crusts leaves no virus for transmission to others. It can occur more than once, although one time has been the most common in reported cases. Stress periods common in adults happen to be present prior to the occurrence of shingles. The exact reason as to why, even with the long periods of inactivity, the virus flares up is unknown to doctors. It could be due to the aging of our immune system over time, which makes it more susceptible to infections. This could also apply in explaining why shingles are more prevalent in the older individuals and not in the young people.

Once a person is exposed to the infection, he/she can develop the chicken pox or shingles within 10 to 21 days. The difference between a patient with chicken pox and a patient with shingles is that the prior is contagious a day or two before the appearance of rashes and remains contagious until scabbing of the blisters, while the latter is contagious during the blistering of skin rashes. Shingles is not contagious before the appearance of blisters and when the rashes scabbing starts.

A patient who develops shingles can redevelop the blisters after some time of healing; however, the next time blisters appear, they would be less painful and would heal in less time. It is not necessary that one would redevelop the condition, but many people who have had shingles have redeveloped the condition after a few months. The immune system of a person is what determines the recurrence of the infection. A person is recommended to eat a healthy diet and perform exercise to keep the immune system boosted.

Prevention and Treatment

Double dosage of the chicken pox vaccine gives 98% assurance from chicken pox infection and currently is the best way for preventing the two conditions. However, this applies to those individuals who have never had chickenpox. Between 12 and 15 months after birth is the ideal time for reception of the first dose, and the second one should be taken when one is between 4 and six years old. Individuals over 60 years of age who happen to be more vulnerable to infection have a shingles vaccine going by the name Zostavax. This vaccine has not been recommended for people in the age group 50 to 59 years old. Zostavax is not guaranteed to prevent you from contracting shingles, but this makes the resulting rashes have less pain in addition to clearing them faster.

To prevent further spread of the disease to those at risk, you should keep the rashes clean and with cover. Infected persons should also clean their hands as many times as possible and avoid touching the blisters. You also need to consult your doctor from whom you take the vaccine, if you happen to be 60 years and above. You can also make use of natural products that have healing properties, such as raw honey of high quality. Other natural products, such as aloe vera, resveratrol, vitamin C, garlic, and lysine, are good in the treatment of herpes infections and hence can be applied in cases of shingles.

It should be clear in one’s mind that complete prevention from chicken pox and shingles cannot be guaranteed, because the presence of the virus in the body remains; it is simply dormant (inactive).  However, a person should still take appropriate steps as described to minimize the chances of getting infected with the virus or to activate the virus already present in the body. There are many home remedies that can help a patient, and one should adopt the easiest available option for keeping himself or herself clean and less contagious.