Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors

"Why do some people get chicken pox twice?"


Even though my husband got chicken pox as a child, last month he developed it again. How is this possible? The doctor said it could develop into something very painful ? but why? How does someone avoid getting chicken pox again?


Chicken pox is a common condition. Recurrence of the infection requires medical attention, and there is a vaccine that can possibly prevent it. I encourage you to discuss this with your doctor.

See a doctor who can help

Find a Primary care-doctors near you

In actuality, people do not get chicken pox twice. However, varicella--which is the virus that causes chicken pox-- can infect someone twice. Varicella virus, one of the herpes viruses, often infects kids. This infection spreads throughout the body and causes the clinical syndrome that we know as chicken pox. Unfortunately, as with most of the herpes virus family, our body cannot clear the virus. The virus lays dormant in us (specifically in the nerves) for years and years. In most people, the virus never becomes clinically apparent again. However in some people, the virus can recur--but this time the varicella infection is known as herpes zoster (also known as shingles). Why the infection comes back in some and others is not completely known. This is likely because of the strength of the immune system--weakened immune systems allow it recur. Therefore people with cancer, immune disorders like HIV, steroid use or otherwise sick (lung or kidney problems) are at increased risk. However, some normal people just get it--it is unknown why, maybe just bad luck. We know the older you are the more likely you are to get it. Staying healthy is one way to help decrease the chance of zoster. I recommend you discuss your questions with your doctor. There is a zoster vaccine that adults can get. This allows the immune system to increase its strength against the virus and hopefully prevent shingles. Discuss this with your doctor.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.