ZocdocAnswersIf I had chickenpox does that mean that I cannot get shingles?

Question

If I had chickenpox does that mean that I cannot get shingles?

Had chickenpox when I was a kid but now my good friend has shingles. I'm scared to hang out with him because I don't want to get it too. If I'm 27 and already had chickenpox at age 7, could I still get shingles from him or am I immune?

Answer

In most people, shingles is a disease of reactivation of an already acquired dormant virus. I'll explain what this means. The virus that you caught when you were 7 and had chickenpox is still alive inside you and living in the nerves near your spine. It may never show its face again because your immune system keeps it at bay. This virus will show its face in the form of shingles any time your immune system is brought down and out of commission temporarily. This is what most likely happened to your friend. In someone with a normal immune system, being exposed to shingles is the same as being exposed to the chickenpox again. You shouldn't have to worry about catching it. If for some reason you have a temporary compromise of your immune system (because of stress or treatment with immunosuppressive medication), then you will be at risk of getting shingles both with and without exposure to someone currently infected. If you are concerned about the virus, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can perform a blood test to make sure that your body has the tools to fight off the virus. Good luck.

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