Shingles: The Adult Chicken Pox

A friend recently mentioned that he had a strange rash that appeared on the side of his abdomen soon after a week at summer camp. Thinking it was heat rash or some type of shower fungus initially, he tried to avoid scratching it and assumed it would clear up on its own. However after a few days, that wasn’t the case and the supposed “shower rash” got a bit worse. A visit to the dermatologist concluded it was the adult version of chicken pox:  shingles

What are Shingles?

Herpetic shingles-virusShingles are called “adult chickenpox” for a reason. They come from the same varicella virus that causes small, itchy pimple-like blisters on children. Shingles also come in the form of a blistering rash and can be extremely uncomfortable and painful. They hurt (typically on one side of the body.) They tingle. And they itch. What starts as burning will then turn into red patches. Most cases clear up after 2-3 weeks.

Are Shingles Contagious?

If someone has never had chicken pox or received the chicken pox vaccine, they could be susceptible to shingles. But in most cases, if you keep the area clean and covered, it will not transfer to others. Nobody really knows exactly what triggers the virus to raise its head again. If you’ve had chicken pox as a child, the virus can lie dormant in the nerves and reappear as an adult as shingles. While most only battle shingles once, it is possible to have them multiple times. It’s said that stress, a weakened immune system, surgeries and organ transplants can be the cause of an outbreak.

How to Prevent Shingles

Because it’s difficult to pinpoint a cause for shingles, it’s difficult to say how to prevent them. However one great step to know if you’re immune to shingles or chicken pox is a varicella titer test. This test will check the antibodies in your blood to see if you’ve built up an immunity to the virus. If you haven’t, a chicken pox vaccine is available and can help prevent you from coming down with the shingles rash.

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