As part of the compensated campaign I’m working on with Childs Play PR and Bundoo, I had the opportunity to interview one of their experts, Sara Connolly A Bundoo Pediatrician. Bundoo is a great resource for pregnancy into your child’s early years regarding pretty much everything. You can find advice, community and even products that will help you on your parental journey. A friend of mine just came down with Shingles. And she was very worried about her two five month old babies coming down with Chicken Pox. Luckily they didn’t get sick but it sparked a lot of questions for her and for me, so I took the chance to Interview Sara about Chicken Pox, Shingles and protecting your child against illnesses in general.
Can you first explain what Singles are and who is at risk?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox, Varicella-Zoster virus. Shingles is a reactivation of the varicella- zoster virus which has been quietly living in our bodies since we were infected as children in the form of chicken pox. For unknown reasons, the virus again become active and makes us sick. But the rash of shingles looks and feels different than the rash of chicken pox. In shingles, the rash follows along one nerve root and so we get a streak of a raised red rash with little blisters along that area of the body related to the nerve. Of ten that occurs in a band that wraps around one side of the body or in a streak on the face or neck. In chicken pox the rash looks like red spots that are raised and eventually blister and scab over. The typical chicken pox rash is all over the body and often has between 250-500 blisters! Unlike chicken pox which is itchy, the rash of shingles is often quite painful. It can itch and burn and once it heals we can still be left with pain. Anyone who has had chicken pox is at risk for shingles.
Then I would love to know how to prevent others from getting Shingles or Chicken Pox and the difference between the two.
With chicken pox, children (and adults) are contagious beginning two days BEFORE the rash until all of the blisters have dried and formed scabs and no new blisters are appearing. This is usually on the sixth or so day of the rash. Children over the age of 12 months who have been exposed to chicken pox should be vaccinated within three days of the exposure and children who have only received one dose of the vaccine should receive a second dose provided enough time has elapsed since the first dose. Non-pregnant adults with normal immune systems who have never had chicken pox should also be vaccinated.
The risk of transmitting shingles from person to person is much less than the risk of transmitting chicken pox. Shingles is spread by direct contact with the fluid inside the blister, so keeping the lesions covered and not scratching them prevents transmission from person to person. Nevertheless, people with shingles may feel feverish and uncomfortable, especially during the first few days when the rash is erupting. For a mother with shingles, keeping her lesions covered and washing her hands frequently is the best way to avoid passing the virus to her baby. If your child is less than 12 months, they have not had the chicken pox vaccination and are at a small risk of catching the virus from a caregiver who works very closely with the infant. Interestingly, if the child catches the virus they will develop chicken pox and not shingles.
What to do to protect your baby if they are too young to get the vaccine?
This really depends on the degree of exposure and the infant’s age. If your baby has been exposed, I recommend discussing it with their pediatrician in order to decide the proper course of action. Talk with the doctor within the first seventy-two hours after exposure as there is a window of opportunity to lessen the risk of getting sick.
Can you share the pro’s and con’s to getting a Chicken Pox Vaccine?
As a pediatrician, I strongly recommend the varicella vaccine to all unimmunized children and adults. Since 1995, when the vaccine was first used in the United States, through 2005, cases of chicken pox have decreased 90%. What was once an expected illness of childhood, resulting in missing at least a week of school (and work!), has become a rare illness. Children who are vaccinated and who still acquire the virus and become ill are much less sick then those who have not been vaccinated. Finally, vaccinating our healthy kids is the best way to protect our infants, elderly and chronically ill children from severe disease.
To be honest, they make me cringe. Prior to the varicella vaccine healthy children died in the US every year due to chicken pox. Many more missed weeks of school and put those around them at risk for disease. Chicken pox is not a rite of passage of childhood.
Then if you could just in general give advice on how to protect your baby against illness?
Protecting your baby against all illnesses is virtually impossible but there are a few things that every family can do to lessen the frequency of illness.
· First, don’t underestimate the importance of vaccinating your child. Vaccines remain the single most effective way to decrease disease burden in a population. The diseases that are covered by today’s vaccine schedule are serious, many deadly, and are not to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, there are pockets of the US where vaccine preventable illnesses like measles, mumps and whooping cough are on the rise. Discuss vaccination with your pediatrician so that you are confident and comfortable and then vaccinate according to the CDC’s recommended schedule.
· Wash hands frequently and use non-alcohol based hand sanitizers. Regular soap works great to decrease germs on hands.
· Wipe down toys and wash pacifiers and bottles nightly.
· If possible, keep your child home from daycare when ill and keep them out of optional play groups whenever they show signs of illness such as a runny nose.
· Never underestimate the importance of excellent nutrition and sufficient rest.
· When your infant is very small, less than two months old, keep them out of crowds if possible. Avoiding church, air travel, shopping malls, etc will decrease their exposure to germs.
Bundoo.com offers a wealth of information and an online community for smart, busy parents. Some of Bundoo’s amazing key features include:
· A Marketplace that features pediatrician-approved products
· The groundbreaking Ask Bundoo paid service that connects parents directly with pediatricians, OB/GYNs and other childcare experts to answer questions privately so that parents can get peace of mind without having to make a trip to the doctor and pay a co-pay