Shingles (herpes zoster) causes pain and a blistered rash. The rash can appear anywhere on the body but will be on only one side of the body, the left or right. It will be in a band, a strip, or a small area. The pain can be very severe. Shingles can also cause tingling or itching in the area of the rash. The blisters scab over after a few days and heal in 2 to 4 weeks. Medicines can help your child feel better and may help prevent more serious problems caused by shingles.
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. When your child has chickenpox, the virus gets into the nerve roots and stays there (becomes dormant) long after your child gets over the chickenpox. If the virus becomes active again, it can cause shingles.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
How can you care for your child at home?
- Be safe with medicines. Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine. Antiviral medicine helps your child get better faster.
- Do not let your child scratch or pick at the blisters.
- Keep the blisters moist until they heal over. One way to do this is to cover them with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a nonstick bandage.
- Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
- Do not give a child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
- Keep your child away from close contact with people until the blisters have healed. It is very important for your child to avoid contact with anyone who has never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. Young babies and anyone who is pregnant or has a hard time fighting infection (such as someone with HIV, diabetes, or cancer) are especially at risk.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child has a new or higher fever.
- Your child has a headache or stiff neck.
- Your child loses the ability to think clearly.
- The rash spreads to your child's forehead, nose, eyes, or eyelids.
- Your child has eye pain, or their vision gets worse.
- Your child has new pain in their face, or they cannot move the muscles in their face.
- Blisters spread to new parts of your child's body.
- Your child has symptoms of infection, such as increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- The rash has not healed after 2 to 4 weeks.
- Your child still has pain after the rash has healed.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter B448 in the search box to learn more about "Shingles in Children: Care Instructions".
Current as of: October 31, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine