Herpes zoster, or shingles, is a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (chickenpox). The virus causes a painful rash of small blisters on a strip of skin anywhere on the body. On some occasions, the pain may continue for a prolonged period of time even after the rash is gone.
After a person has had chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the nerves. If the virus reactivates, however, it causes shingles. Herpes zoster is more common in people with depressed immune systems or over the age of 50. It is very rare in children, and the symptoms are mild compared to what an adult may experience.
Children who have weakened immune systems may experience the same, or more severe, symptoms as adults, however.
Herpes zoster most often occurs on the trunk and buttocks, but can also appear on the arms, legs, or face. Each child may experience the symptoms differently. The most common symptoms may include:
The symptoms of herpes zoster may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult a physician for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis usually involves obtaining a medical history of the child and performing a physical examination. Diagnosis may also include:
Specific treatment for herpes zoster will be determined by a physician based on:
Medication may help alleviate some of the pain, but the condition has to run its course. Immediate treatment with antiviral drugs may help lessen some of the symptoms. Use of medication will be determined by a physician based on the age of the child and the severity of the symptoms.
The Division of Dermatology at Children's National Health System continues to expand services as more families seek our expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the skin, hair, and nails.
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Sometimes a mom’s intuition is all it takes to get her child to the right physician. When 8-year-old Xavion Chisley developed a fungal infection on his toe, his mother, Nikki, immediately took him to see a dermatologist who removed his toenail to treat the infection. However, when Xavion’s toenail grew back, the infection had not diminished but actually appeared to be spreading to his foot.
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