Why doesn’t having chickenpox earlier in life provide immunity against having shingles later?

After having chickenpox, your body does not rid your system of the virus. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of the spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. In most people, the virus simply stays there quietly and doesn’t cause problems. Scientists aren’t always sure why the virus gets active again, but they know stress can be a cause.

If I’ve been vaccinated for chickenpox, can I still develop shingles later in life?

Unfortunately, yes, despite being vaccinated for chickenpox, you can still get shingles. No vaccine is 100% protective and the effects of vaccines lessen with time. However, people who get the chickenpox vaccine are significantly less likely to develop shingles later in life compared with people who never received the chickenpox vaccine. One recent 12-year study found that the number of shingles cases was 72% lower in children who had received the chickenpox vaccine compared with those who did not.

Can I get shingles if I haven’t had chickenpox?

No. You can’t get shingles if you’ve never had chickenpox, but you can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles. If you’ve never had chickenpox and you come into direct contact with the oozing, blister-like rash of someone with shingles, the varicella-zoster virus can infect you and you would develop chickenpox.

Once you’ve had chickenpox, you could develop shingles at some point in your life. This is because the varicella-zoster virus never fully goes away after you’ve had chickenpox. It lies quietly “inactive” in your nerve tissue. Later in life, the virus may become active again and appears as shingles.

If I’ve had chickenpox once in my life can I get it again?

It’s rare to get chickenpox twice in your life. Once you’ve had chickenpox, you’re usually immune to it for the rest of your life. However, it’s not totally impossible. If you have a severely weakened immune system (because you’ve had an organ transplant, HIV, or cancer, for example), you can get chickenpox a second time. If you’ve had chickenpox, you are more likely to get shingles at some point in your life than a repeat bout of chickenpox.

Are there natural ways to boost the immune system to help lessen the chances of developing shingles?

Stress is a risk factor for developing shingles. So limiting your stress can be helpful. Try meditation, yoga or other relaxation methods. Eat healthy, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, don’t smoke – these are all good living tips, not just for reducing your chance of getting shingles, but also many other diseases and health conditions too.

What is the difference between herpes zoster and varicella zoster?

Herpes zoster is simply another medical name for shingles. Varicella zoster is the virus that causes both shingles and chickenpox.

Although both diseases produce a rash, measles and shingles are completely different and unrelated diseases. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus and measles is caused by the rubeola virus.

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