December 13, 2004

Yes, you can get chicken pox twice

My wife has chicken pox, and it seems I gave it to her.

I had a skin problem a couple weeks ago, and once I got to see a dermatologist, he took one look at it and said herpes zoster - a.k.a. shingles. I was healing fast, so there was no real problem for me. But, herpes zoster is also chicken pox, and now my wife has a fever and is covered in spots.

This puts a crimp in any Christmas plans I had. My wife has had chicken pox before, so how this can be is something of a mystery to me.

Anyway, so I am now catching up on my mail. There's lots of stuff going on next door at AFOE that I need to catch up on from my unscheduled sabatical. So, I ought to point out that my middle school friend Matt Bolton has started a blog on labour affairs called Unions-Firms-Markets. Go take a look.

I'll be back soon. I have scans from Grandpa and there's plenty going on in the news to blog. If we aren't going anywhere for X-mas, I ought to have some time to get around to it.

Posted 2004/12/13 9:49 (Mon) | TrackBack

There are two schools of thought on this. Some would agree one can get chicken pox a second time. Others (our paediatrician among them) claim that anybody gettting chicken pox a second time was misdiagnosed the first time.

My own sympathies are with the first school of thought and (even more so) with your wife. Gute Besserung!

Posted by: Mrs Tilton at December 13, 2004 20:18

Thanks. I've been looking through the literature and see roughly the same two possibilities. My wife was only 3 when she had chicken pox, so misdiagnosis the first time is definitely possible. But she insists that she's been exposed to pox dozens of times since then, so she must have had the immunities.

Either way, it has been made clear that it is all my fault and it will continue to be my fault until she stops itching.

Posted by: Scott Martens at December 14, 2004 7:17

Acyclovir is often used to accelerate the healing of shingles. Has your wife asked about having it prescribed for her chicken pox? I don't know whether it's used in chicken pox (certainly it isn't in children, but my understanding is that the symptoms of the disease tend to be worse in adult cases, which might justify it). The same antiviral can be used against herpes, which is merely a related virus. As you noted, shingles is the chicken pox virus itself, trying for a last hurrah. So I'd think the drug ought to be of some use against it.

Posted by: Mrs Tilton at December 14, 2004 10:19

She's taking an anti-viral but I don't know the name. As soon as she had spots, she went to our GP who laughed his ass off and then prescribed them. I gather anti-virals are very effective at alleviating the symptoms when you start taking them as soon as the spots appear, but that they don't usually give them to children.

Posted by: Scott Martens at December 14, 2004 12:55

There are two different strains of chicken pox. One is much more common then the other. You can get EACH of them once. It is quite possible that either Kiera or the two of us had the less common version. That's the usual explanation for the rare cases of getting chicken pox a second time.

Posted by: Scott's little brother at December 14, 2004 15:08

Thanks, Russ. I had thought about the possibility that I've given her some mutant strain of super pox which will promptly devastate Europe. But if there's more than one variety already in existence, then there isn't much to worry about.

Posted by: Scott Martens at December 14, 2004 15:14

Sylvia had a skin problem when we adopted her (11 months) which her pediatrician said he was pretty sure was shingles, which meant she had chicken pox quite early in life.

Posted by: Jeremy Osner at December 23, 2004 19:19

Does two pox, yes two on my entire body, constitute a "case of chicken pox?"

Posted by: Lisa Stevens at May 25, 2005 20:00

I have just broken out in a case of what we believe to be the chicken pox, however, i had a bad case of them when I was only 9 months. Is it possible for this to be chicken pox? If so, are the symptoms any different the second time from the first?

Posted by: Sarah at June 26, 2005 21:07

I'm a doctor myself. I've never faced "second-time" chicken pox in my practice, none of my colleagues has either. That was misdiagnosis first time, I'm sure.

Posted by: Herpes Girl at July 5, 2005 13:18

I had chick pox when I was 14 days old, and "shingles" (Zoster) when I was two-and-a-half. There was some question about the first diagnosis, but none about the second. It is now several decades later, and about two weeks after I, myself, treated an adult with chicken pox. Guess what? I am covered a class spread of "dew drop on a rose petal" lesions.
To the doctor who has never seen second case of chicken pox in his practice: get real. To those who propound the two virus theory: some citations, please.

Posted by: Sabra at September 6, 2005 3:29

Chicken Pox twice? You betcha! I had them when I was ten, I had contracted them from my younger brother. I had a moderate case and was well within 2 weeks. About 5 days ago both my son and I started breaking out and went to the doctor and yes, it is chicken pox. My MD told me it is more common than most people think. Usually it is due to a weakened immune system and that the first go around your body did not develop full immunity. Oh, and for the record, my son has also had the Varicella Vaccine which it supposed to protect you from chicken pox, it obviously didn't. Depending on which study you read the failure rate of the vaccine is anywhere between 2% and 60% ! That is a HUGE margin of error... Also a little disturbing in that why are we giving our kids vaccines with such inconclusive results? Things like this just burn me up...

Posted by: Stefani at September 7, 2005 20:25

Herpes Zoster is NOT Chicken Pox. It's Shingles.

Posted by: Lisa at October 18, 2005 5:11

My son's first diagnosis of chicken pox was at 6 months. This first chicken pox was very severe. He had it all over his body. He has a few scars on his face as evidence. And today, at the age of 12 he has a milder case. His first diagnosis I do not think was wrong because his cousins got chicken pox at the same time. The three got it from the older cousin. And the chances that 3 doctors could be wrong seems unlikely. I am just worried that his immune systems is weak. And if there is something to worry about. Is it more common than everyone thinks? I hope so.

Posted by: Gloria at November 5, 2005 8:24

I just started working as a health care provider in pediatrics and received my blood-work results for various immunities. This states that I am not immune to the pox, yet I had them when I was 10 yrs old! The catch is that you should have

Posted by: Nikki at December 12, 2005 23:31

This topic is of great interest to me, primarily because I have had chickenpox twice and my mother has had it five times now. For all of you doctor's who are skeptical, I can understand, yet the last 3 cases have all been diagnosed by the same physician, and he shared his results with other physicians because he thought it was very peculiar. It's possible that there was a misdiagnosis, but I have a hard time believing that they were. I have been trying to find a definitive answer to how it could be possible to have chickenpox more than once, but have had a hard time.

My mother has Hashimoto's disease, a rare condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid, and her level of health is in general poor. If it is possible that a compromised immune system makes it impossible for your body to develop antibodies against herpes varicella, then perhaps this might explain my mother's case. However, I have no immune problems that my doctor is aware of, so perhaps I caught both strains? It may, of course, be something entirely different.

I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around how a virus that lives mostly dormant in your nerve cells could present as chickenpox (as opposed to shingles) a second, third or more times. Shingles comes from the inside-out, whereas chickenpox is outside-in, so it doesn't make sense. Or is it that you are exposed again, and having no antibodies, more virus infects, your body brings the infection under control and then those viruses go into the nerves. If this is so, I am worried that my mother could have a very severe case of shingles at some point, assuming that she has acquired so much virus through 5 infections.

Is it possible that there are in fact more strains of varicella than we are aware? It wouldn't be surprising, considering the effort required to track viruses and their drift/shift is not easy. Alternatively, is it possible that some people simply cannot develop the antibodies to it, due to a genetic abnormality? We know that some people cannot be infected with HIV due to genetic anomolies which affect their immune cells. Perhaps there is something more than meets the eye here. In some ways, I think scientists consider chickenpox basically a done deal, and focus on other more pressing viruses (with good reason), yet it seems a worthy area of investigation.

Posted by: Edward at December 24, 2005 22:01

BTW, according to Dorothy H. Crawford a knowledgeable microbiologist, the virus which causes chickenpox and shingles is caused by the same herpes virus, called varicella zoster virus, VZV for short

Posted by: Edward at December 25, 2005 0:39

Recently my 4 year old son had chicken pox...a mild case ....2 weeks later to the day my husband came out in chicken pox....and yes like a lot of you he has had them before...he got a really bad case of it when he was 3 years old. Since then he has been subject to at least 15 children and myself who have had the chicken pox and never caught it. He is not itchy, he had a mild fever for one day before the spots came out and even though the spots themselves are huge he isnt exactly covered in them. I know the school of thought is that you shouldnt be able to catch them twice.....but my pox ridden husband proves otherwise lol. I just hope my son and i dont get it again...groan

Posted by: Shar at December 29, 2005 15:55

HI Everyone
I wish i hadnt found this forum :(
My boyfreinds sister is 11, and i went to there house yesterday and she was covered in POXS :( ofcourse i was like OH i already had it, no problem, even called home and my mom said yup had it at 5 or 6 :( and now i am itchy, how long does it take for me to start ictchying :( and cant i DIE fir i get this :( oh my gosh, I have a mom who had a transplant and cant be in contact with virus like this and now i have come back into my house :( I had heard my WHOLE life u cant catch it twice, i never ever would have gone to there house :( Anything i can do :(

OH MY GOSH :(i am very upset

Posted by: Kim at January 3, 2006 5:44

Today I think I am headed into my third case, folks. Had it at 4 when my brothers brought it home from school(dr confirmed it in brothers, I got the same spots), had it last April(at 30), complete with major respiratory trouble and cerebral ataxia - aka - walking like the town drunk. Lab test confirmed it as chicken pox. Today, after being exposed to a few kids with it twice in last 3 weeks,(assumed there was no way I was going to get it again, esp with the ton of lesions and trouble I had last time) guess who has mild cold symptoms, itchy skin and few red spots? Yes, you can get it more than once as a healthy person(search repeat Varicella infection, in L.A. I think, study showed repeated cases often run in families).Individuals with compromised immune systems can get it more than once for sure, HIV and leukemia etc. I used to babysit a 6 year old who had to be hospitalized every single time he was exposed, even without symptoms. No fun as an adult, see a physician first time or not, especially with respiratory trouble.

Posted by: cootiesagain at January 18, 2006 1:50

Can a person have shingles and chicken pox at the same time? It seems that is what is happening...

Posted by: Annie M Spani at January 20, 2006 6:38

my son today was diagnosed with chicken pox (mutant) again for the second time, i know he was not misdiagnosed the first time, as it was only 3 years ago, and my other 3 children had it too. infact my son who was diagnosed today, had chicken pox really severe, so i was really shocked today when the doc said chicken pox AGAIN, as this is day two and he is already got spots all over his back tummy arms face neck and legs, whish me luck. does this also mean my other children are going to get it again too...
take care all michaela ENGLAND UK

Posted by: michaela goss at March 25, 2006 23:53

My daughter is day 3 into the outbreak. She is 5 and even though she is not finding it easy I am hoping we shall get through the next week without any major problems. She is stuck indoors and so am I :(

All I can do is bathe her twice a day and swathe her in camomile thrice a day and calpol as needed. She has it on her scalp and mouth and eyes. Poor baby :(

I had chicken pox as a child myself. Around the same age as my daughter. I remember it very well. But I am so worried I could get it again. I was of the train of thought that once you had it you were immune for life. I can't believe that this might not be the case :(

I am a single parent and I don't know how I would get through it as an adult as what I have heard sounds pretty bad. Just trying to think of how I would go about covering myself in camomile let alone try and look after a child is just horrendous.

We have a holiday booked in 9days that is all paid for and I am unable to work for for the next week as it is. I am freaking out and my poor child is so uncomfortable it just pains me to see.

Posted by: milly at April 1, 2006 17:46

My mom thinks I have the chicken poxs and she's never had them. this would be my 2nd time to have them I had them when I was 1 or 2. Now I'm 12.What are the symptoms?

Posted by: cheyenne at April 6, 2006 22:18

My son has had chicken pox twice and my daughter has had them twice and I had her vaccinated after her titre came back showing she still wasn't immune.I am a nurse and had them actually swab the lesions to verify it was chicken pox. The specialist we saw told us it is actually more common than people realise and it is usually runs in families. So yes you can get them more than once.

Posted by: sue at April 7, 2006 1:25

My fiance just got chicken pox for the second time at age 27. Her mom is a nurse and confirmed that she had them quite bad as a child when she was about 10. I feel terrible for her, but it's comforting to see that there are others out there that have had it twice as well - we thought we were going crazy.

Posted by: Naumi at April 11, 2006 22:23

It's terrible. And at that age! I myself am suffereng from herpes all the time.

Posted by: Herpes Girl at April 12, 2006 20:56

my son had chicken pox at the age of a week. he is now 4 years old and has got chicken pox again.he was really unwell with it complaining of stomach pains and being sick.this resulted in a trip to the all night doctor who told us it was a viral infection in relation to the chicken pox. all we could do was give him calpol. then 2 days later he was playing out and suddenly came limping in crying that he couldnt walk. when we had a look his knee was really swelled up so we asked him if he had fallen in which he replied no. baffled by this we took him to the hospital for an x ray on his right knee. there showed to be no break and after sleeping at the hospital and having blood tests done he was diagnosed with arthritis. again this was in relation to the chicken pox. the blood tests came back clear that there was no infection and it was just a temporary arthritis. after two days the swelling had gone down and jordan was walking as normal he didnt appear to be ill so he was allowed home from the hospital. the very next day he was sick and wouldnt eat any food. we then found out that his left ankle was now giving him pain altough it wasnt swelled up like his knee was. two days later he was complaining of his elbow hurting. we just thought that the arthritis was going through his body joint by joint. so we continued to give him calpol. now it is his other ankle although he is now eating ok and not being sick. what is baffling me the most is that he has now had the chicken pox for over two weeks and new blisters are still popping up. i cant for the life of me work it out. can anybody shed any light on this for me and give me an idea when it is likely to end. so much for not being able to have chicken pox twice!!!!

Posted by: julie sharples at May 9, 2006 1:23

julie sharples-sounds more like shingles than chickenpox. pain of shingles is often more severe, with swelling, and worser pain. also lasts longer than 2 weeks.

Posted by: janine at May 17, 2006 18:23


Posted by: julie sharples at May 26, 2006 10:39

I loved reading all of these entries... but, here's the real answer to your "Can I get Chicken Pox twice?" questions. YES! Here's how and why:

Some infections are permanent; your body never eliminates the virus. They are called chronic infections. HIV infections are permanent and lead to AIDS in approximately 10 years. Herpes simplex I (generally referred to simply as herpes, a cause of so-called cold sores in the mouth) is a chronic infection. Once you're infected with herpes, you've got it forever. Your immune system can control the herpes infection so that you normally don't have any symptoms. But the virus hides out in certain nerves, and sometimes it starts replicating. Then it spreads in your body, frequently causing cold sores around the mouth. Your immune system eventually gets the herpes virus under control, and it hides again.

Chickenpox is actually a species of herpes virus (varicella-zoster virus, distantly related to herpes simplex I virus). Once you catch chickenpox, you are thought to be infected with the virus for life. But your immune system generally has very good control over the virus, forcing it to hide in a few nerves around the lower spinal cord. In most people, the chickenpox virus hides in those few nerves for their entire life, never causing any problems. But in some people (frequently during periods of high stress during middle age), the chickenpox virus evades the immune system and spreads through the body again. This frequently results in "zoster," a very painful chickenpox infection localized around the midsection of the body (near the nerves of the lower spinal cord where the virus was hiding for decades). The condition is commonly called shingles.

Posted by: Mike LaPan at June 2, 2006 2:36

i am 18 years old and had the chicken pox when i was 10(i think). A few weeks ago i was holding my friends from work lil girl for her, then a week later, the lil girl broke out in chicken pox, now i have lil spots over my shoulder...... could it be the chicken pox? xxx

Posted by: BabyBecca at June 8, 2006 11:55

To all.
Chicken pox has only ONE type, Varicella Zoster, and it can only be contracted ONCE, leaving any other diagnosis incorrect.
Acyclovair and Valtrex are used in the treatment of Shingles (the virus of chicken pox which lies dormant until something such as a compromised immune system, e.g. someone receiveing chemo, or even severe stress can bring it about.) I don't know if either drug is used in children, especially those in the under 12 age group, who are most likely to get it. Also, when either med is given for Shingles, it must be started within a 72 hour window
of the rash appearing in order for it to have any effect. It helps by interferring with the constant replicating of the virus, but only during that time. After that time slot is lost, it's useless.

Posted by: Kate,R.N.,Ed.M. at June 25, 2006 9:17

I have three children who have had chickenpox several times, each time one catching it from the other.
My eldest son had it 3 times my middle son twice and my daughter twice.
I did not get it from any of them , my Mum advises me I have never had them as a child.
I had a blood test for work and was told i was immune and say i MUST have had them at some time ( I work on a paediatric ward so they insisted we all were checked ).
Last week i developed a few 'spots ' after my great neice had visited with chickenpox. I ignored it as I thought i was immune.
Now I am covered in them and it was diagnosed by a paediatrician as chickenpox and i was sent home, now my daughter has them ...third time !
I have an appointment with my GP on Monday..i wonder if he is as sceptical as those here , I will take my letter with me that states I am immune

Posted by: Carol at August 12, 2006 22:15

I was diagnosed with chicken pox (Varicella Zoster)twice as a child; once at the age of 2yrs. old and again at the age of 9. I have vivid memories of the second infection.I was covered in liasions on my entire body, including in my mouth and ears and I still have a few faded scars from these. However, recently I had a health screening done as part of a student placement I am doing at the local children's hospital and my blood test came back indicating that I do not have immunity for the Varicella Zoster virus. Is anyone aware of any literature or lines of research that has found evidence that there are some whose immune systems are unable to produce anti-bodies for this virus? I am interested because I do not want to waste money on a vaccine if my immune system does not have the ability to manufacture these memory cells. Thanks ahead of time for any advise, suggestions or info.

Posted by: Kellie at August 29, 2006 16:13

It's interesting to read about other people's stories. My husband has had chicken pox as a child but spots appeared again 4 days ago (they're only on is face. scalp and neck). It's scary how swollen his face is though. Is it just part of it and they'll go down with the spots (now flat and red and joining together), or is it something to wrory about?

Posted by: jan at September 16, 2006 14:29

I got chicken pox at the age of 20 it started as a little blister on my breast the next morning i was covered i had a temp of 104 i was sick to my stomach and just wanted to die, now at 32 years old low and behold one of my childs friends age 4 contracted them, my son doesn't have any symptoms and is around this child daily i have had no contact with the child and guess what i have the darn chicken pox again, first symptoms were throwing up two days in a row, now mild fever, and well classic run of the line dew drops, so whatever RN or Doctor says you can't get them twice needs to go back to medical school, i can see it being misdiagnosed in children but not in adults and no i dont have shingles its the straight up real thing! I even have pictures of when i was 20 and had them, so all you PRACTICING physicians need to update your research and as for the lab tests, can't rely on those either, i have Multiple Sclerosis it took 9 years to diagnose that two i had every symptom possible, yet no lesion in my brain. ROCKET SCIENCE I TELL YOU. Finally diagnosed through lumbar puncture and visual testing which revealed optic neuritis (main symptom duh) I almost went blind and was told i was crazy for years all because the doctors didn't know ****. Sorry for sounding sarcastic but after reading this forum and seeing the replies to ITS NOT POSSIBLE im livid.

Posted by: Kristina at September 20, 2006 5:52

There is a girl at work that says she is on her 8th round of chicken pox. Is this possible?

Posted by: Cindy at September 26, 2006 21:25

I was wondering. I have been exposed to the chicken pox several times and have never had the shot or the disease. Same thing with my father and siblings. Is it possible to have immunity to them and pass it down to children without having disease?

Posted by: Erica at September 29, 2006 14:48

I first got the chicken pox at the same time as my older brother when I was 4 yrs old. Much to everyones surprise-I was diagnosed with them again at the age of 7. Recently, last July, I was first diagnosed with shingles, then chicken pox. Now, I have broken out in these aweful dots&blisters again w/a fever&aches. What is going on!? I wish they come out with the vaccination earlier. I don't want to go through this again-each time I've gotten a good case.

Posted by: Christina at October 6, 2006 17:00
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