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Shingles in Children: Care Instructions

Shingles

Your Care Instructions

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 he or she 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 or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine. Antiviral medicine helps your child get better faster.
  • Do not let your child scratch or pick at the blisters. They will crust over and fall off on their own if left alone.
  • Put cool, wet cloths on the area to relieve pain and itching. You can also use calamine lotion. Try not to use so much lotion that it cakes and is hard to get off.
  • Put cornstarch or baking soda on your child's sores to help dry them out so they heal faster.
  • Do not use thick ointment, such as petroleum jelly, on your child's sores. This will keep them from drying and healing.
  • To help remove loose crusts, soak them in tap water. This can help decrease oozing, and dry and soothe the skin.
  • 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 18. 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. Pregnant women, young babies, and anyone else who has a hard time fighting infection (such as someone with HIV, diabetes, or cancer) is especially at risk.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has worse symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • Your child is confused or cannot think clearly.
  • Your child has a headache or stiff neck.
  • The rash spreads near your child's eye.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.
  • Your child has pain that does not get better after he or she takes pain medicine.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.