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Can You Get Shingles If You Never Had Chickenpox?

Updated: Jun 3


A Woman With Shingles.

Chickenpox and shingles are two related health conditions that can be a bit tricky to understand. It's important to know how they work and what you can do to protect yourself and others. Let's take a closer look at what these conditions are, what the signs and symptoms are, who is more likely to get them, how you can prevent them with vaccines, and when to see a doctor.


What is Chickenpox?

Chickenpox is an itchy, blistering rash that can spread pretty easily. It's caused by a virus called varicella-zoster, the same one that causes shingles. You can catch it from mucus, blisters, or even just breathing in the air around someone who has it.


You can start spreading it around to other people a day or two before the rash even shows up, so you might not even know you have it yet. If you do get chickenpox, you're contagious for at least five days and until all the blisters are crusted over. The blisters start as small red spots, turn into bumps, and then fill with fluid before crusting over.


What are Shingles?

Shingles is when the varicella-zoster virus gets a second life and comes back to cause trouble. After you've had chickenpox, the virus just hangs out in your nervous system, waiting for the right moment to strike. When your body is under a lot of stress, or when you get older and your immune system isn't as strong, the virus can wake up and cause shingles. Shingles isn't the same as chickenpox. It's a rash, but it usually only shows up on one side of your body, and it can be really painful.


What are the Differences Between Shingles and Chickenpox?

Chickenpox and shingles both come from the same virus, but they show up differently. Chickenpox causes a really itchy rash that can cover your whole body. Shingles cause a rash that's usually only on one side of your body, and it can be really painful. Also, shingles aren't as contagious as chickenpox. You can't catch shingles from someone who has it.


Signs and Symptoms of Chicken Pox and Shingles

When it comes to signs and symptoms, chickenpox and shingles can cause different kinds of rashes. Chickenpox usually gives you a rash all over your body that can make you really itchy. But shingles rash is usually just on one side of your body, and it can be really painful and cause blisters. Chickenpox can be pretty uncomfortable, but shingles can be really painful.


Chickenpox Signs & Symptoms

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Loss of appetite

  • Tiredness and malaise

  • Rash throughout the body


Shingles Signs & Symptoms

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Blisters filled with fluid that later break into scabs

  • Intensely painful numbness

  • Rash limited to a dermatome that does not cross the midline


By understanding the differences between shingles and chickenpox, you can figure out what you're dealing with. If you have a rash that's on just one side of your body and it hurts a lot, it's probably shingles. But if you have a rash that's all over your body and makes you feel really itchy, it's more likely to be chickenpox.


Can You Get Shingles If You Never Had Chicken Pox?

The general understanding is that shingles arise from a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which means you need to have had chickenpox in the past. However, the situation is not completely straightforward. While it's unlikely to get shingles without a history of chickenpox, there are exceptions. Some people may have had a mild or asymptomatic case of chickenpox, meaning they did not know they had been infected. In these cases, the virus may still be present in the body, which can later lead to shingles.


Who is Susceptible to Developing Shingles?

Anyone who's had chickenpox can get shingles, but some people are more likely to get it than others. As you get older, your immune system can get weaker, which makes it easier for the chickenpox virus to reactivate and cause shingles. People with other health problems or who take certain kinds of medicine can also be more likely to get shingles.


Should I Get the Shingles Vaccine if I Never Had Chickenpox?

Yes, getting vaccinated against shingles is a good idea, especially if you're 50 or older. The vaccine helps protect you from shingles and makes it less likely to get really bad. Even if you don't remember ever having chickenpox, it's still a good idea to get the vaccine because it can help keep you healthy. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if you should get the vaccine.


Chickenpox Vaccines

  • Varivax: This is a chickenpox vaccine given to children and adults in two doses.

  • MMRV: This is a combo vaccine that protects against four diseases: measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox. It's for kids from 12 months to 12 years old.


Shingles Vaccine

  • Shingrix: If you're 50 years old or older, or if you have a weak immune system, you should get two doses of the Shingrix vaccine to protect yourself from shingles.


When is the Right Time to Get the Vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people aged 50 and older get the shingles vaccine. It's a two-dose vaccine, so you need to get two shots. The second shot should be given between 2 to 6 months after the first one. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out when is the best time to get the vaccine.


Natural Remedies for Shingles

In addition to traditional medical treatments, some people might try natural remedies to help ease the discomfort and promote healing from shingles. These include:


1. Cool Compresses

Putting a cold, damp cloth on the area that has shingles can help ease the pain and reduce swelling. But remember, don't put ice directly on your skin because it could make things worse. Instead, use a cool cloth and change it every few minutes. This can help make you feel better.


2. Oatmeal Baths

Taking a bath with oatmeal can help soothe the itchiness and keep your skin moisturized. You can find something called colloidal oatmeal at most drugstores, which is really good for helping with the itch. Just pour some into a lukewarm bath, soak in it for a while, and then pat your skin dry when you're done. This can make you feel better.


3. Capsaicin Cream

Capsaicin cream is made from chili peppers, and you can put it in the area where you have shingles. It can help by numbing the nerves and taking away some of the pain. Just make sure to use it exactly the way the package says, because it can cause a burning or stinging feeling on your skin. Wash your hands really well after using it so you don't accidentally touch your eyes or other sensitive areas.


4. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a plant that has gel in its leaves that can help calm your skin and make it feel better. You can use the gel on the rash from shingles to make it heal faster and feel less itchy. Just cut off a piece of the plant, scrape out the gel, and apply it to your skin. You can also buy aloe vera gel from stores if you don't have a plant.


5. Lifestyle Measures

To help yourself feel better and recover from shingles, it's important to do things that help you feel less stressed, eat healthy foods, and drink lots of water. These simple lifestyle measures can help your body fight off the virus and reduce the severity of symptoms.


When to Consult a Doctor

If you have symptoms that might be shingles, like a painful rash with blisters, you should go to the doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can help relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. You can also ask your doctor if you need the shingles vaccine to help prevent getting sick in the future. They can help you understand your risk factors and recommend the best course of action for your health.


As a leading family practice clinic in Sarasota, FL, Center One Medical is committed to providing comprehensive care and guidance on conditions like chickenpox and shingles. If you or someone you know has experienced symptoms related to chickenpox or shingles, or if you have questions about these conditions or the vaccines for them, we encourage you to contact us and book an appointment with one of our family care specialists. We're here to help you stay healthy and happy!


Conclusion

In conclusion, chickenpox and shingles, both caused by the varicella-zoster virus, present distinct challenges and considerations. While there is a connection between the two, it's important to be aware of the differences between them and to know how to stay healthy and protect yourself from them. Whether you've had chickenpox or not, it's important to get vaccinated and to seek medical help early if you think you might have shingles. By seeking medical advice and prioritizing preventive measures, you can keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.



FAQs


1. Can you get shingles if you never had chickenpox?

  • Yes, you can get shingles even if you have never had chickenpox. Shingles are caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you've never had chickenpox, you can still contract the virus and develop shingles later in life. This means that it's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of both chickenpox and shingles.

2. What causes shingles in individuals who have never had chickenpox?

  • Shingles can occur when the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox, reactivates in the body. If you have never had chickenpox, you can still be infected with the varicella-zoster virus through exposure to someone with shingles or through the varicella-zoster vaccine. This means that the virus can remain in your body even if you have never experienced symptoms of chickenpox.

3. Is there a vaccine available to prevent shingles if you've never had chickenpox?

  • Yes, there is a vaccine that can help prevent shingles, even if you've never had chickenpox. The shingles vaccine is recommended for people who are 50 years old or older, even if they've never had chickenpox in the past. It's also a good idea for people who have already had shingles to get the vaccine. The vaccine can help protect you against getting shingles in the future.

4. What are the risk factors for developing shingles without a history of chickenpox?

  • The risk factors for developing shingles without a history of chickenpox include getting older, having a weakened immune system, certain medical conditions, and exposure to the varicella-zoster virus. Also, if you're around someone who has shingles or if you haven't been vaccinated against the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles, you're at a higher risk of getting shingles. This means that there are certain factors that can increase the chances of developing shingles, even if you have never had chickenpox before.

5. Can shingles be transmitted to someone who has never had chickenpox?

  • Yes, shingles can be transmitted to someone who has never had chickenpox if they come into direct contact with the fluid from shingles blisters. However, the person exposed to the virus will develop chickenpox, not shingles, as the initial infection. This exposure to the virus can then lead to the development of shingles later in life. So it's important to be careful if you have shingles, to avoid spreading the virus.

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