Can you get chicken pox twice? What you need to know about the varicella-zoster virus

Can you get chicken pox twice? What you need to know about the varicella-zoster virus

This Morning: Dr Sara discusses chickenpox

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Chickenpox is most common amongst children though adults can also contract the varicella-zoster virus which causes the disease. Shingles is a similar illness caused by this virus, and it can only be contracted once you’ve already had chickenpox – but is it also possible to get chicken pox twice? reveals everything you need to know about chickenpox.

Can you get chickenpox twice?

Chickenpox is easily recognised by the itchy, blotchy skin rash that can appear on any part of the body.

These blistered sores make the disease highly contagious and easily transmissible to people who have never been infected with the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) which causes it.

While natural immunity is formed after contracting and overcoming chickenpox, it is not unheard of for some people to become unwell with it a second time.

The NHS said: “It’s possible to get chickenpox more than once, but it’s unusual.”

If you do get chickenpox more than once, the symptoms tend to be exactly the same – though your existing immunity to it can make it less intense.

Developing the “very itchy” rash is almost guaranteed, though adults will often develop more spots than children who become infected with chickenpox.

According to the NHS, adults will usually have a higher temperature for longer too.

This means that if you have chickenpox twice – once as a child and again as an adult, you will likely experience worse symptoms the second time around.

How likely are you to catch chickenpox again?

When you get chickenpox the virus lives dormant in your body but it can be triggered if your immune system is weak.

While the chances of getting this disease more than once are very low, it can happen based on three key criteria.

You may be able to catch the chicken pox virus twice if:

  • You had your first case of chickenpox when you were less than six months old
  • Your first case of chickenpox was very mild
  • You have a weakened immune system

In most cases, what appears to be the second bout of chickenpox is actually the first.

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Chickenpox is always caused by VZV, though it can also cause a similar illness known as shingles.

However, reinfection is not to be confused with shingles as this is an entirely different condition.

One of the main differences between chickenpox and shingles is that the skin rash caused by shingles only occurs on one side of the body.

Common symptoms of chickenpox which do not occur with shingles are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Red or pink bumps across the body which appear two days after other symptoms

Another thing to note about chickenpox is that, unlike shingles, chickenpox tends to produce smaller spots in a higher volume, whereas shingles tends to trigger larger blotches.

While shingles isn’t contagious, it is possible for somebody who has never had chickenpox to then contract it after coming into contact with someone who has shingles.

The NHS states that:

  • You cannot get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox
  • You can get chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before

If you are concerned you or your child has chickenpox or shingles, further information is available on the NHS website.

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