Posts Tagged ‘shingles’

Chickenpox and pregnancy – what you need to know

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

You probably don’t need to worry about chickenpox (also called varicella) if you’ve had it before or if you’ve had the chickenpox vaccine. Both of these can help make you immune to chickenpox. Immune means being protected from an infection. If you’re immune to an infection, it means you can’t get it. About 9 out of 10 pregnant women (90 percent) are immune to chickenpox.

Usually people get chickenpox during childhood. It’s caused by a virus and you can get it by being in contact with someone else’s chickenpox rash or through the air when someone with chickenpox coughs or sneezes. An infected person can spread chickenpox starting 1 to 2 days before the rash appears and until the rash stops spreading and is covered by dry scabs. This is about 5 days after the rash starts.

Chickenpox usually isn’t dangerous in children. But if you get it during pregnancy, chickenpox can be harmful to your unborn baby or newborn. Chickenpox during pregnancy may cause some babies to get congenital varicella syndrome. This is a group of birth defects that can include problems with muscles and bones, blindness, seizures, learning problems, and microcephaly. Also, 1 to 2 out of 10 pregnant women (10-20%) who get chickenpox get a dangerous form of pneumonia (a kind of lung infection).

The good news is that if you haven’t had chickenpox already, the best way to protect yourself is to get the vaccine before getting pregnant. But if you’re already pregnant, you’ll need to wait until after you give birth to get the vaccine. So if you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant and you’re not sure if you’ve had chickenpox or the vaccine, talk to your health care provider. You can get a blood test to find out if you’re immune to chickenpox.

If you’re pregnant and find out that you’re not immune to chickenpox, try to avoid anyone who has chickenpox or shingles. If you come into contact with someone who has it, tell your health care provider right away. Treatment is available, but it’s important to get it within 4 days after you’ve come into contact with chickenpox to help prevent the infection or make it less serious.

Shingles, pregnancy and kids – know the facts

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Many pregnant women have written to us expressing concern about being exposed to a family member who has shingles. Usually it is their parent or grandparent, or another older adult who has the virus. However, did you know that children can get shingles, too?

When my daughter was in fourth grade, she came home from school with a tiny rash on her back about the size of a quarter, and complaining of pain and exhaustion. I had never seen a rash like that before; it was a little clump of tiny bumps. Sure enough, her pediatrician diagnosed it as shingles. I was shocked, as I never associated shingles with kids. Although it isn’t common, it does happen, and the risk of getting singles increases with age. My daughter had a mild case, and after about 2 weeks she was on the mend. She was lucky – it can be very painful and last longer.

What causes shingles?

Shingles (formally known as Herpes Zoster) is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Only someone who has had chickenpox – or, rarely, has gotten the chickenpox vaccine – can get shingles, according to the CDC. The chickenpox virus stays in your body and can re-appear at a later date, often many years later. When it reappears, it does not return as chickenpox – it comes back as shingles.

How common is shingles?

My daughter had chickenpox (the disease) when she was four years old. At that time, the vaccine was not yet available. It is far less common to develop shingles if your child has had the chickenpox vaccine. By vaccinating your child against chickenpox you will decrease her chances of getting shingles later in life.

At least 1 million people a year in the United States get shingles. Shingles is far more common in people 50 years of age and older. It also occurs more in people whose immune systems are weakened because of a disease such as cancer, or drugs such as steroids or chemotherapy.

Can you catch shingles from someone who has shingles?

No, you can’t catch shingles from another person who has shingles. However, a person who has never had chickenpox (or the chickenpox vaccine) could get chickenpox from someone with shingles. However, this is not very common. Shingles is not spread through the air and infection can only occur after direct contact with the rash when it is in the blister-phase. A person with shingles is not contagious before the blisters appear or after they scab over.

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant…

• First, get a blood test to find out if you’re immune to chickenpox. If you’re not immune, you can get a vaccine. It’s best to wait 1 month after the vaccine before getting pregnant.

• If you’re already pregnant, don’t get the vaccine until after you give birth. In the meantime, avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox or shingles.

• If you’re not immune to chickenpox and you come into contact with someone who has it, tell your provider right away. Your provider can treat you with medicine that has chickenpox antibodies. It’s important to get treatment within 4 days after you’ve come into contact with chickenpox to help prevent the infection or make it less serious.

• Tell your provider if you come in contact with a person who has shingles. Your provider may want to treat you with an antiviral medication.

What does all this mean for your child?

• If you think your child may have shingles, contact her health care provider. Prompt treatment may shorten the duration and keep pain to a minimum.

• Get your child the chickenpox vaccine to protect her against chickenpox, and so that she has a far less chance of getting shingles in the future.

Learn more about shingles exposure and chickenpox during pregnancy.

View other posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

(Reviewed 6/6/17)

 

Shingles exposure during pregnancy

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

pregnant-womanEvery so often we get a question from a pregnant woman who is concerned because someone in her family (usually a parent or in-law) has shingles. She is worried that she may be at-risk to develop this as well. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox– the varicella zoster virus (VZV). Once you have had chickenpox, this virus continues to live dormant, inside your body. Sometimes, under conditions of stress or when the immune system is weakened, the virus can be reactivated. When this happens the virus does not cause chickenpox but shingles.

Almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles. Anyone who has had chickenpox may develop shingles, including pregnant women and even children. But about half of all cases actually occur among people 60 years old or older. There is now a vaccine available for people over age 60 to prevent shingles.

The varicella zoster virus can only be spread by an affected person to someone who has NOT had chickenpox. If this happens, the exposed person will develop chickenpox—not shingles.  Once you have had chickenpox, antibodies are in your system and you cannot get it again, but you will have the potential to develop shingles.

You cannot catch shingles from someone who has shingles. You can, however, catch chickenpox from someone who has shingles. If you are not immune to the varicella zoster virus and you are exposed to someone who has shingles there is a very small chance that you could develop chickenpox. Shingles is not spread through the air and infection can only occur after direct contact with the rash when it is in the blister-phase. A person with shingles is not contagious before the blisters appear or after they scab over.

If you have been exposed to someone with shingles, and you have not had chickenpox or the vaccine, make sure you talk to your health care provider. Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox and the risk of a person with shingles spreading the virus is low if the rash is covered.

Remember, if you have had chickenpox, it is possible to develop shingles during pregnancy. If you do develop shingles, make sure you contact your health care provider right away. The most common symptom is a painful rash on one side of the face or body. The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7–10 days and clear up within 2–4 weeks. There is often pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash will develop.

Shingles can be quite painful but treatments with antiviral medications are available. These can lessen the severity and reduce the discomforts. And, for women who do develop shingles during pregnancy, the prognosis is good.

Did you know that children can get shingles, too? See our post on shingles, pregnancy and children for more info.

 

(Updated 6/6/17)