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ScarletG's avatar

Are my children at serious risk for developing chickenpox if their dad has shingles?

Asked by ScarletG (17points) January 28th, 2013

My husband recently developed what we believe to be shingles. He has not been diagnosed by a doctor but with lots of web research to try to identify a rash he recently broke out with I decided he appears to have shingles. Web research is also how i discovered the possibility of catching chickenpox from someone with shingles. I had chickenpox as a child at age 7 and survived but it was horrible. My husband and i have a 15 month old and a 28 month old who have not had chickenpox yet and i am concerned for them. Just how easy would it be for them to get it now due to my husband having shingles if he indeed has it? They have not had direct contact with his rash but are in close contact with him everyday. He shares food and drinks with them (not sure if that matters) and unfortunately I have caught him NOT washing his hands after he scratches the infected area. Besides the likelihood of them catching it, are children there age at higher risk for severity, and is there anything we can do now to prevent it after already being exposed?

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33 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Why not call your pediatrician immediately? We are not the guys who went to med. school, with one exception, who may not be online.

wundayatta's avatar

Have they had their vaccinations? If not, the chances are much higher that they will catch chicken pox. Fortunately, chickenpox is survivable, although the kids are pretty miserable. Of course, your husband should be diagnosed first. It might not be shingles. I think you should get your husband taken care of first, and then while he is at the doctor, you can ask the doctor all these questions.

JLeslie's avatar

I am in throws of fighting off my 3rd shingles outbreak in 9 months! I joke I am going to rent myself out for chicken pox parties for parents who don’t want to vaccinate. The way I understand it, yes, someone with shingles can give chicken pox to someone who has not had it. I don’t know if there has to be actual physical contact, like your husband touching the area then touching your child, or if it can be transmitted a different way.

Are you planning on vaccinating your kids from the virus? It’s too late for your husband’s outbreak now, but just curious.

By the way Valtrex works very well for shingles, he might want to take the medication. The doctor can culture his outbreak, but keep in mind as time passes the culture will be less likely to be accurate and you might get a false negative or undeterminable.

Aethelwine's avatar

A person with shingles can pass the varicella-zoster virus to anyone who isn’t immune to chickenpox. This usually occurs through direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash. Once infected, the person will develop chickenpox, however, not shingles. Chickenpox can be dangerous for some groups of people. Until your shingles blisters scab over, you are contagious.


Shingles is not only itchy, but very painful. He needs to see a doctor to determine what the rash is. I’d still keep my children away from any rash and remind the hubby to wash his hands.

I’ve had shingles for over 20 years now and have never passed the virus on to anyone in my home. I usually get at least 2 outbreaks a year. My doctors always told me to keep my children away from my sores until they scab over. I usually get the sores on my chest or upper arm, so it’s easy for me to keep them covered when I get a rash.

JLeslie's avatar

I wanted to add it if it some other herpetic virus he can spread that too, but it won’t be chicken pox it will be herpes, meaning giving the other person the same thing your husband has, including he can autoinoculate himself to other areas. Biggest concern is transferring herpes to the eyes. Good hygiene, like washing hands well, after touching any rash or sores is always advised. Chicken pox is varicella, while other herpetic rashes are different viruses.

Coloma's avatar

I’d have your husband see the doctor. Self diagnosing can be full of holes.
He may have a case of hives or other stress or allergy related issues. Get thee to a qualified doctor asap.

cazzie's avatar

Let the kids get chicken pox. They should get it now rather than later.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear But, that doesn’t help this outbreak I would think? And, doesn’t help the kids this outbreak either. I guess you mean for the future. Plus, the kids can get their chicken pox vaccine, which also won’t help this shingles outbreak either. But for the future. Unless the mom is thinking she doesn’t want to vaccinate.

cazzie's avatar

I would have said vaccinate, but it seems too late now…. but thanks, DOC.

ScarletG's avatar

Thanks to all for the honest and informational responses. My kids have had their vaccines but I still worry…it’s the life of a mom. I do agree contracting chickenpox now is better than later but they are so young and vaccines are no guarantee. I feel better hearing that it’s not going to harm them much more now than a few years from now and it’s great to get feedback from people who know first hand. As for my husband, getting him to see a doctor is like pulling teeth! He may just have to pay the doc a visit this time.

dabbler's avatar

Take your husband to the doctor, the treatments work !! Don’t make him suffer the pain.

And, yes, the kids are at risk of getting chickenpox – and other adults are at risk of getting chickenpox if they haven’t had it already and aren’t vaccinated.

@JLeslie you can get a vaccination to avoid getting shingles again.

dabbler's avatar

@ScarletG At least the pain remedy is over-the-counter, get him a tube of Capzasin for about 15$.
Counterintuitively that produces a really hot sensation (and shingles pain is like burning) but by the time that hot sensation levels off the pain is suppressed.

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie The answer to the OP is “yes”. See my link. The only way to possibly protect them is to vaccinate or isolate—although that’s probably too late. If they have already been vaccinated then they should be okay.

Aethelwine's avatar

@dabbler you can get a vaccination to avoid getting shingles again.

I’ve had shingles for over 20 years and I’ve never heard this. If I get a vaccination I’ll never get another outbreak? That doesn’t sound right. Why hasn’t my doctor suggested this? I take pills that help control the outbreaks, but she (my doc) never mentioned a vaccine for me.

ScarletG's avatar

The cream sounds good. He is having pain so I will look for that. He will be glad to get some extra relief. Thank you.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear I looked at your link when you posted it. I know abut the shingles vaccine and the chicken pox vaccine. My point is it is probably too late to vaccinate her kids for this exposure. Or, am I missing something?

@dabbler I know.

@jonsblond Yes, there is a shingles vaccine. They offer it at Walgreens and probably other pharmacies, but you will need a prescription most likely because you are young. The elderly can get it without a script. Although, possibly prescription requirements vary by state. Your doctor should have mentioned it in my opinion so you could at least research it and decide since you get outbreaks so regularly.

You would think getting an outbreak would raise immunity like getting the vaccine. I don’t understand why that is not so. Maybe @Rarebear knows.

If you drink caffeine I recommend quitting. It might help not get outbreaks. I think it helped me.

Aethelwine's avatar

@JLeslie I heard about the vaccine many months ago, but I didn’t know it could help someone who already has shingles outbreaks. I thought it was just for those who’ve had chicken pox but haven’t had shingles yet. I’m just really surprised my doctor didn’t mention it to me when I saw her last June. She was very thorough and helpful with all of my needs and also prescribed Valtrex to help with my shingles outbreaks. I guess that’s why I’m so surprised that she didn’t recommend it for me.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond Nothing surprises me. I think call her and ask about it. I would ask specifically why she didn’t recommend it.

And, do some research yourself, which I am sure I don’t need to mention. So, you are armed when you talk to her with some information.

dabbler's avatar

I’m not sure the vaccination for shingles is the same as that for chickenpox.
It’s the same virus but preventing shingles presumes you’ve have chickenpox already at some time and the virus is in your system, dormant. Otherwise you’d get a chickenpox vaccine.

I was told the shingles vaccination is not cheap, and often not covered by insurance.
But the anti-virals prescribed to treat shingles aren’t cheap either, a course of valacyclovir was nearly 200$.
I’m still astounded that the pain killer for something that feels like a serious sunburn combined with needles is chilli-pepper extract. I was worried when it got hotter and hotter on the skin, then leveled off hot, and the pain stopped and it just felt warm. ...I could sleep again, ahhhhhh!

@JLeslie I think you’re right that caffeine upsets the condition. If you can get by without it during an outbreak it’s worth a try. I noticed a wave of pain re-emerging after a tall strong iced-tea at one point and I quit drinking coffee for a few days.
@Rarebear would you say caffeine is contra-indicated?

JLeslie's avatar

@dabbler I mean quit caffeine period. So you don’t get outbreaks.

Why are you asking about whether they are the same vaccines? I would assume they are both attenuated varicella virus. I don’t know if they are exactly the same. Maybe the shingles is a larger dose if there is such a thing? I am just hypothesizing, I don’t know the answer.

ScarletG's avatar

Good to know that caffeine can contribute to the problem. He drinks like 3 cups of coffee a day. What a bummer…he loves his coffee. I read something about the chili remedy but was sketchy about it. Now hearing that it works we will give it a try. Thanks!

JLeslie's avatar

Well, if this is his first episode, and right now we are not even 100% sure it is shingles, he can keep his coffee until he sees the problem is going to happen again. Some people get shingles once and never again. I’m on a roll right now, but I had not had an outbreak in over 5 years before it started up again this past July.

ScarletG's avatar

That’s true. No sense in making the poor guy cut back or stop altogether until we know for sure. Some patches of the rash are already scabbed while the others are still filled with puss. Might as well just wait it out and see if it comes back. Sorry to hear yours returned. I feel for anyone who deals with this. It is not pleasant to say the least.

JLeslie's avatar

It’s on one side of his body right? Where does he have it? Face? Back?

Is the rash a messy shape? Or, round?

If he gets it again in the same spot, then you can be pretty sure your diagnosis was right, but I would go to the doctor and have it cultured if you have insurance and he can get the medicine if he wants it.

If it gets larger or streaks of red start growing out from it go to the doctor right away in case it has a superinfection from his scratching. Red streaks growing out from a wound, and wound, can be life threatening.

ScarletG's avatar

There are 4 messy shaped patches on the left side of his body. They start on his chest a little under the nipple and follow each other around to his back. No streaks currently but good to know so we can keep an eye out for that. Unfortunately we recently lost our insurance. We only have coverage for our kids right now. Go figure right. All the years we were covered and no medical issues until now. If he needs to see the doctor we will just have to work something out. We may have no choice. If it worsens or recurs we will definitely do what’s best and go see the doctor.

JLeslie's avatar

Does sound like shingles. My first episode lasted around three weeks I think. The itch was unbelievable! It isn’t as bad the subsequent times. The doctor can’t do anything except prescribe the meds. Diagnosing it isn’t hugely important unless this episode fails to heal and it is something else. Getting it again in the same place pretty much is a diagnosis, so if money is tight you can not do it if it happens again. The first time it happened to me it was diagnosed wrong, which I find inexscusable now that I know what it is. I didn’t take medicine for it several times. Sometimes I do. Probably taking the meds reduces the chances of post herpetic neuralgia, but I am not sure about that.

Aethelwine's avatar

@JLeslie The itch was unbelievable! It isn’t as bad the subsequent times.

I don’t think I’ve had an outbreak where the itch didn’t drive me crazy. Maybe a few weren’t as bad thanks to the help of my meds, but most times the itch for me is terrible.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond Always itchy for sure. When I first heard about shingles when I was young, before I ever had it, everyone talked about the pain. I never talk about it in terms of pain. My first out break I would lean up against walls to put pressure on the area to relieve the each. It’s on my butt. So I can’t go scratching my butt. LOL. Now I can suffer and not feel compelled to have to scratch or press on it or whatever, but it isn’t easy. The first time was definitely the worst for me. The medicine definitely seems to help. In the past when I did not take medicine, sometimes the outbreak would go full blown, or sometimes it receeded on it’s own after a few days. When I take the medicine I can’t be sure if it would have calmed down on its own.

How much medicine do you take? What dose? I play with my dose.

Oh, I meant to mention. I think auggie was considering taking the shot. Maybe ask her if she did, since she has similar cases to us. She may have researched it more.

ScarletG's avatar

I think we will wait it out for now and see how it goes. I don’t blame you for being upset with your doctor. Although there are many excellent doctors out there, some just don’t seem to make the cut. That is one reason my hubby doesn’t like to go. Most people I know have a negative experience at some point with doctors. I definitely appreciate doctors especially now that I children but I as well have had bad experiences. The worst was when I was only eight years old and experiencing chronic bladder infections. That alone was very unpleasant but to make things worse, the doctor sent me to the hospital for an evaluation of my bladder. He thought I may have a pinhole allowing urine to leak out and cause these incurable infections. I was so kindly fitted with a catheter to allow ink to be inserted into the bladder which would allow the pinhole to be visible in an ultrasound. Ouch at any age but really ouch and scary at 8. Well it turned our there was no pinhole and all I needed was a longer stint if antibiotics and bye bye bladder infections. So I absolutely sympathize with anyone who unnecessarily suffers further from a medical issue due to a misdiagnosis. But to the many many doctors who get the job done without inexcusable error…thank you. You are appreciated.

JLeslie's avatar

Don’t get me started :).

ScarletG's avatar

Oh I know right. I had plenty more I could’ve ranted about but I figured it best if I stopped there. :-)

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