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|Quick reference medical handouts used
by Pediatric offices
Should I worry if my newborn has been exposed to a person with shingles?
What are the potential
dangers of an infant less than six months old being around (and handled
by) a person with shingles? Can the infant catch shingles? Is there any
stage of the condition that is dangerous to the infant?
Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. However, the virus
that causes shingles, the varicella zoster virus, can be spread from a
person with active shingles to a person who has never had chickenpox. In
such cases, the person exposed to the virus might develop chickenpox,
but they would not develop shingles. The virus is spread through direct
contact with fluid from the rash blisters, not through sneezing,
coughing or casual contact.
Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no
Shingles is caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus many years
after the original chickenpox episode. It is not thought to be as
contagious as chickenpox (possibly because it often is located on a part
of the body that is covered with clothes), but sometimes a person can
come down with chickenpox after exposure to someone who has shingles.
This means that it is possible that an infant could get chickenpox from
being handled by another person with shingles.
The good news is that, in general, otherwise healthy infants less than
six months old who get chickenpox usually have a milder disease than
older children and adults. This is because
the infant still has some protection from antibodies they receive
from their mother during pregnancy (that is, of course, if the mother
had chickenpox earlier). If the infant exposed to shingles has any
health problems or is on any medication it is best to discuss this
exposure with the baby’s healthcare provider to see if the infant needs
any special treatment. Also, remember that when a child reaches their
first birthday, they can be immunized with the chickenpox (varicella)
On the rare chance
that the infant does get chickenpox, they are at
no greater risk of complications from chickenpox than are
older children. Having said that, chickenpox is the source of
considerable misery, and may occasionally lead to severe secondary
infections in healthy infants and children.
summary, if a person taking care of an infant develops shingles,
Do not touch or scratch the rash.
Wash your hands often to prevent the spread of
varicella zoster virus.
Until your rash has developed crusts, avoid contact
with Pregnant women who have never had chickenpox or the varicella
vaccine; premature or low birth weight infants; and
immunocompromised persons (such as persons receiving
immunosuppressive medications or undergoing chemotherapy, organ
transplant recipients, and people with HIV infection).
information on this topic
posted 09-04-2012 on kidsgrowth.com