Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Shingles in a Seven-Year-Old

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Henry Bernstein, M.D.

Q: My seven-year-old daughter has shingles. The doctor said it is unusual for a child to get this. Should I be worried that it's occurred because of an underlying problem more serious than shingles? Is it OK for children to take the medication that adults get for this? My daughter doesn't seem to be in a lot of pain, but it does itch.

A: I do not believe there is cause for alarm. It is true that shingles is much less common in children under ten years of age, and that we do see shingles more often in people whose immune systems are suppressed or not functioning normally. However, assuming your child has been healthy up to this point, there is little reason to think that your child necessarily has a problem with her immune system.

Someone with shingles usually has had chickenpox in their past. This same virus hangs around in certain nerve roots in the body after chickenpox and then is reactivated. The rash tends to be localized and follows the direction of a nerve. The typical course of the disease is mild, so using medication in generally healthy children is not usually necessary. The medication is reserved for those individuals with known immune problems and/or severe disease involving more than just the skin. The severity of shingles increases as patients age. We rarely see the pain or eye problems that can complicate the disease in children.

Treating the symptoms usually is all that is necessary. Supportive treatment with soothing, drying lotions may be helpful. Medicine by mouth to relieve itching works well. Watch for superinfection with bacteria germs caused by scratching the skin. Remember, too, that someone with shingles is contagious to someone who has never had chickenpox.

More on: Expert Advice

Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks


Join BIC on our mission to save handwriting and Fight For Your Write! Writing helps kids become better readers, boosts their confidence and sparks their creativity. Visit BICFightForYourWrite.com to sign our petition to save handwriting!

7 Tips for Reading Aloud to Babies & Toddlers
The AAP advises reading aloud to babies and toddlers because it boosts brain power and has many other benefits. Get some tips for making the most of story time with your tot!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

How to Survive Summer Boredom
When the kids are home all day, every day, summer boredom strikes hard and fast. Learn the best summer boredom busters and tips for surviving until September.

12 Birthday Party Favors that Won't Get Thrown Away
The next time you're planning a birthday, forgo the penny candy and cheap toys. Send your guests home with one of these fun and creative party favor ideas!