Home » Chickenpox vs Shingles: How Can You Tell Them Apart?

Chickenpox vs Shingles: How Can You Tell Them Apart?

Both chickenpox and shingles are common ailments. For the most part, people tend to get chicken pox once in their lives and then any further iterations tend to be shingles. However, this is not always the case. Truthfully, for both shingles and chicken pox, you tend to have to let it just run its course. That being said, there are sometimes complications. When it comes to getting the best treatment, you really have to know what you’re dealing with. Keep reading to find out more.

Chickenpox vs Shingles

The Causes

As you likely know, chickenpox is incredibly contagious; it is easily spread. This is why ‘pox parties’ used to be popular, childhood is the safest time for a person to experience chickenpox, and so parents used to throw ‘pox parties’ in the hopes that their child would pick it up. The varicella virus is what causes chickenpox, and it is often airborne in that it is spread through coughs and sneezes. That being said, you can also contract chickenpox by coming into contact with the fluid produced by shingles blisters too. After the initial exposure, it can take anywhere from ten days to three weeks for symptoms to appear.

The varicella virus then remains in the body. For most people, this won’t cause any further concerns. However, if the virus does become reactivated, then the ensuing infection is known as shingles. You can develop shingles several times over the course of your life, but you can only catch chicken pox once because it is the first infection; any following infection would be shingles, the condition is outlined in more depth in this leaflet by Patient.

The Differences In Symptoms

Both chickenpox and shingles do have similar symptoms. They both can produce a fever and a headache. However, chickenpox produces a rash that spans the entire body and can also lead to a loss of appetite. On the other hand, shingles produce a more localised rash and can also produce feelings of fatigue, muscle weakness and chills too. The rash for both conditions tends to consist of itchy, red bumps, which usually become fluid-filled blisters.

Remedies & Treatment

Nowadays, there are a few vaccinations circling which can protect against chickenpox and shingles. However, because the virus is generally harmless, it isn’t widely offered to people in Britain. It tends only to be offered to those who are immunocompromised or would be particularly vulnerable should they contract the virus. For the most part, someone suffering from either condition is unlikely to need to see a doctor unless their symptoms become particularly severe. It is really more about managing the symptoms.

Applying calamine lotion to the rash can really help to reduce the itching and provide some respite. This is because calamine lotion contains several anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing ingredients like zinc oxide. You should apply it with clean hands or cotton pads. You should avoid applying the lotion too near to the eyes.

Some people are unfortunate enough to experience the chickenpox rash inside of their mouths which can be particularly uncomfortable and painful. Ice lollies or ice cubes can help to soothe the sores a little. It also helps to ensure that they are getting enough fluids and not becoming too dehydrated.

Oatmeal baths are another popular home remedy. Simply fill an old stocking or pair of tights with a cup of oats and place it in the bath. The water should be warm – not too hot because this can make the rash more uncomfortable. Try not to exceed soaking for twenty minutes. If you are finding it difficult to avoid scratching or if your child is too young to understand, then using mittens and trimming their nails can help to ensure that they aren’t going to cause more damage to their skin’s barrier.

Lastly, chickenpox and shingles can both be uncomfortable and painful at times. Don’t be afraid to administer painkillers. For children, Calpol can be given regularly. Adults can take paracetamol or ibuprofen. If the itch is truly unbearable, then you could also try antihistamines to quell the itch too. If you feel uncomfortable self-medicating, then you could always consult with your local chemist as to what the best things to take would be.

To Sum Up

Chickenpox and shingles are very similar because they are both caused by the varicella virus; however, they are separate conditions. Chickenpox is far more common in children, and truthfully, childhood is the most ideal time to catch it because it can be far more detrimental to an adult. Chickenpox is also incredibly contagious, far more so than shingles. A person can only develop shingles after already having had chickenpox too. Shingles tend to be more common among the ageing population, specifically those over the age of sixty. For the most part, neither condition will require, and special medical intervention and the symptoms can be managed at home using the tips above.

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