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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 longer contagious


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) vaccine.

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.

In summary, if a person taking care of an infant develops shingles,

  • Keep the rash covered.
  • 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).

 additional information on this topic

 


posted 09-04-2012 on kidsgrowth.com

 

As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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