Much similar to chickenpox, shingles is a viral infection that can be a cause of great distress. Before we delve into the subject of shingles around babies, let us explain what exactly the condition is.
Shingles, also termed as herpes and herpes zoster is caused by the virus known as the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). This same virus is also responsible for giving you chickenpox. Shingles is described as the reactivation of the VZV that lays dormant in your nervous system after your chickenpox heals. A person is usually at risk of suffering from shingles only once in their lifetime.
A person can only get shingles if they have had chickenpox before. This resurfacing of the VZV in the form of shingles is attributed to a weak immune system. Thus, older people, specifically those above the age of 50 are more prone to it. However, shingles around babies is also a rare but possible occurrence.
Like any other disease, shingles too has a unique set of signs, symptoms, causes, and treatments. Let’s explore said signs and symptoms;
Some Common Signs & Symptoms of Shingles
How to tell if your infant has shingles? The following are the physical signs and symptoms could help you identify a case of shingles around babies:
- Signs of tiredness
- Changed behavior and less energy
- Burning and itching of the skin
- The appearance of rashes or red blotches
- The appearance of fluid-like blisters
- Irritation and tingling sensations
Unlike chickenpox, shingles typically affects a certain part of the skin rather than the entirety of it – usually in the form of a belt on the torso. Aside from the torso, blisters can also surround the eyes. This can be extremely hazardous if left untreated and could cause permanent eye damage.
If any of the symptoms listed above appear, a doctor must be contacted within the next 24 hours.
Causes of Shingles
Shingles are caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, as mentioned before. However, as opposed to chickenpox, it cannot be contracted by someone who has shingles. If there is shingles around babies, it has been caused by the virus that was already inside them, even if they came into contact with someone who had shingles. Shingles, therefore, is a non-contractible and non-transmittable disease.
Though, a person suffering from shingles can give chickenpox to someone who has never had them in the past.
Older people are most vulnerable to the condition because of their frail immune systems. This condition can similarly affect anyone with a risked immune system, such as those suffering from conditions like the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or certain cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. People on medications that debilitate their immunity are also an easy target for the condition.
Treatment & Prevention
Once your infant gets shingles, you can do nothing but wait for it to heal on its own. The healing process can take from 2 weeks to about a month.
There are, however, ways to prevent shingles around babies from developing in the first place. The vaccine for shingles was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 2006 and has been used to reduce the chances of getting the disease ever since. However, the vaccine is exclusively recommended for people over 60 years of age.
A chickenpox vaccine lowers your baby’s chances of contracting the disease and therefore shingles too. Having your child vaccinated against chickenpox will undoubtedly defend them against a shingles outbreak, too.
If shingles around babies has already fully developed, there are steps that you can take to prevent its further spread.
You need to keep the blisters of your child covered so that the oozing fluid does not come in contact with potential chickenpox contractors. Furthermore, you need to wash your baby’s hands to ensure cleanliness. In addition to this, you should try to keep your baby’s hands away from the blisters so that they do not scratch them too aggressively. You can use other, softer materials to scratch the blisters for them, such as a neem tree branch.
As far as the treatment is concerned, when you consult a doctor and they diagnose the condition as shingles, they are likely to prescribe the following medications:
- zovirax (acyclovir),
- valtrex (valacyclovir),
- famvir (famciclovir).
The antiviral medications above are never to be taken without a prescription. You also need to confirm with your doctor about their safety for your baby.
Health Complications Associated with Shingles
If neglected, shingles can lead to some grave health complications for your baby. It can progress and evolve into more severe and painful diseases such as postherpetic neuralgia (PNH). Shingles rarely, but nonetheless can cause these complications:
- brain inflammation
- hearing issues
In extreme cases, shingles can result in death.
Although aged patients of shingles are more apt to become the victims of these complications, they can also occur in young ones. Thereby, apt and urgent care is absolutely imperative.
How to tackle health complications associated with shingles around babies?
If your baby is to suffer from any complications during or after the healing of shingles, they would require treatment for it too.
Treatment of PNH especially tends to be lengthy and can take several years, and can even be lifelong.
Consulting a doctor holds great significance as the treatment of such issues can never be taken upon oneself.
Perhaps the excruciating pain involved is the single most gruesome aspect of shingles. The damaged nerves under your skin can puzzle your brain into causing pain. This combined with the prolonged period of curing can make this time a hellish one for your little one.
The good news is, though, those younger patients completely recover from the disease and almost never show any further signs of the disease.
Take the necessary steps to take away a little from the distress your kid may face during this time.
We wish your infant a speedy recovery!