Shingles is an infection affecting the skin and nerve. The most visible symptom of the virus is the shingles rash: a red, blistering band which usually breaks out on the stomach or abdomen.
Shingles comes from the same virus as chickenpox (herpes varicella-zoster). Nine out of 10 people catch chickenpox as children, and the virus continues to lie dormant in the body even after the infection has passed. In some cases, the virus flares up again in adulthood as shingles.
No one knows exactly what causes the shingles virus to reactivate in some but not others, but age, stress and a weak immune system are all risk factors.
Shingles is not a contagious disease, so your children are not at risk of catching it from you (shingles is very rare in children, anyway).
However, shingles could pass on the herpes varicella-zoster virus and give chickenpox to someone who has never previously had it, so your children could become infected with chickenpox if they haven't already had it.
As previously discussed, chickenpox is a harmless, if uncomfortable, rite of passage that affects all but a minority of children. So you shouldn't stay away from your children for fear of infecting them as they will almost certainly catch chickenpox anyway.
That said, chickenpox can pose a risk to the health of people who meet certain criteria. It is best to avoid people who have never had chickenpox and meet any of the following criteria:
- pregnant women
- the elderly
- newborn babies
- anyone with a weakened immune system
And if your children have chickenpox and you're worried about getting shingles, you can put your fears aside. Shingles is only caused by reactivation of the herpes varicella-zoster virus within the body, and being around someone with chickenpox does not affect your risk of shingles.
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