Guest Author – How do chickenpox and shingles differ from each other? – Maria Fualo

For starters, both shingles (herpes zoster) and chickenpox (varicella) is a result of the same virus called the varicella-zoster virus, but they occur at different ages. Chickenpox can occur at any age, and shingles can occur any time after the person has had chickenpox. The two diseases bring a lot of discomforts to patients. In most cases, they irritate the skin and cause a blistering rash that scabs and may scar.

Whey They Occur and Physical Characteristics

The chickenpox is common in children below five years, while shingles infects typically people over 50 years. Shingles, however, can cause infection in anyone at any age if the chickenpox virus has already infected their body, mostly the elderly. Many cases of infection come from people above 50 years old.

Chickenpox and shingles do tend to differ in look. Chickenpox causes itchy blisters to form all over the body, sometimes internally. Shingles is very painful and often starts with localized numbness/tingling and often but not all the time, a rash. The shingles rash typically displays on one side of the body due to the fact that the follow along nerve pathways.

The blistering rash does not move all over the body like chickenpox does, but stays localized. The most common areas for the appearance of the rash would be the torso and face. It’s quite uncommon for the rash to spread elsewhere.

How Chickenpox and Shingles Differ

1. Chickenpox

Chickenpox, as stated above, results from the varicella-zoster virus that gets into the body, and its reaction to the system causes the disease. This disease begins with red, itchy, small spots (rashes) on the skin. They turn into blisters, which contain clear liquid (something similar to a drop of water). Eventually, the small blisters grow all over your body, from the face all the way down to the feet. But there are some cases when there are only a few blisters on different parts of the body. Other symptoms of chickenpox include fever, headache, tiredness, and loss of appetite. These symptoms appear a day or 2 days before the rash develops.

If medication isn’t given right away, they break and change in form, then become sores before forming into scabs. The good news is there are available treatments that can be given to lessen the severity of symptoms. One is the Acyclovir, but it can’t be prescribed to children below 12 years old. The other medication is an antiviral medicine, which may be given to patients with risky health conditions. It can also be prescribed to children, depending on the health and age of the child.

Facts to Know About Chickenpox

Despite having the same type of virus, chickenpox and shingles are different from each other. It’s necessary to understand how the two illnesses differ. Below is the uniqueness of chickenpox and facts that separate it from shingles.

• Chickenpox is contagious and may affect anyone; it has no age limits. Even if the disease is common to small children under the age of 10, it can strike adults, too.

• Chickenpox tends to be more severe as age progresses and takes longer to cure because of the age factor. The typical symptoms that accompany the illness at old age include loss of appetite and feeling weak. The development of rashes can be so severe and burdensome, resulting in a more demanding condition due to the health of an elderly person.

• The transmission of chickenpox to the uninfected party is through coughing or being near the person with the disease. It’s advisable to quarantine the patient until he or she gets fully recovered. This is the reason why kids miss a week of school.

• The good news is that the chickenpox vaccine is readily available to children in two sets, which prove to be over 98 percent useful in controlling the disease. But even if you are already vaccinated, you can still get chickenpox, however not as severe as those who have not been vaccinated. In rare cases, vaccinated persons may experience similar symptoms to those with the natural virus.

2. Shingles

You might be wondering how the same virus can result in two entirely different illnesses. While chickenpox usually occurs at an early age, shingles hits people, whose age is 50 and up. But children and adults who have already experienced a chickenpox episode can get shingles. Moreover, shingles may also hit children below 3 years old, they are extremely rare cases. In line with that, here are the disease’s characteristics that set it apart from chickenpox.

Facts to Know About Shingles

• Shingles develops after the person already had chickenpox; it is a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. But the symptoms of this disease can be more severe than those of the latter. Moreover, having chickenpox does not mean you will suffer from shingles.

• Shingles can’t be directly transferred from one patient to uninfected person. But as previously stated, the transmission of chickenpox may occur when an uninfected person is in contact with a shingles patient. This only happens to persons who are yet to suffer from chickenpox.

• The illness prevention is through a vaccine known as the Zostavax that is given once to persons above the age of 50 since they are most vulnerable to shingles. According to Cost Freak, it costs around $212. But there is a new FDA-approved vaccine called Shingrix, which is reportedly more effective than Zostavax.


Once you have chickenpox you form antibodies to the virus. The virus then goes dormant in the body and is able to come out again as shingles. This normally happens in times of extreme stress, immunocompromisation, malnutrition, pregnancy, just to name a few.

The patient’s age isn’t always a factor, however, shingles is most common in those over 50, as they are more likely to have health matters that young people may not. Although it’s uncommon, this disease may happen more than once in a lifetime.

The two conditions were once more severe and sometimes fatal (and still can be) diseases before the realization of the vaccines that are potent in fighting the illnesses. Vaccines are important in the reduction and spread of disease.

Autor credit:

Maria Fualo, BSN