Can you get chicken pox again?

If you’ve had chicken pox before, can you get it again? What if you’ve been vaccinated?

Someone I know has a child with very mild chicken pox. She asked me if I wanted to come to her house for a party. She said I wouldn’t get it if I’ve had it before. She also said my vaccinated toddler should be protected.

Is this true? I had it as a child and I don’t want it again. I certainly don’t want my child to catch it needlessly.

It may be worth noting that someone who has had Chicken Pox may have it re-emerge later in life as Shingles.

My brother had chicken pox twice. I never got it.

Obviously, my pox was given to him as punishment for picking on me all those years.

Children under 2 that contract it can still be susceptible, since their immune systems are still forming. It’s my understanding that a very weak case can leave one under-immunized against it, as well. My son had it at 18 months, with maybe 25 total blisters, the pediatrician warned he’d probably get it again and he did at 8.

Yeah: shingles.

I’ve had it twice: once at age 15 and then again when I was 21. Both times were decent doses that made me very crook and itching madly for a couple of weeks. There were no complications though (as are sometimes suggested for people who get kiddie illnessess as adults).

Funnily enough, I have an overactive immune system rather than a deficient one, so I have no idea why my original antibodies failed to protect me from catching it again.

Yep. My response is nearly identical to Queen Tonya’s. My son had it at 18 months, with hardly any blisters, then again at 4 years old.

And yes, you can get shingles.

Both of my kids suffered it (and were diagnosed) twice - once before 2 years and again later.

  1. Chicken Pox: six months. Mild case.
  2. Chicken Pox: three years, more severe case.
  3. Shingles: six or seven years, I still have nightmares about the pain.

Ahh, anecdotal evidence. Ain’t it grand?

Shingles is not the result of catching the virus from someone, you get shingles after you’ve already had chicken pox. The virus (varicella zoster, a relative of herpes IIRC) remains dormant in your nerve cells and can re-emerge in the form of shingles. Most cases of shingles occur later in life though they can happen at any age. And most people who get shingles only get it once.

But you don’t “catch” shingles, you get it years after you’ve had chicken pox. If you’ve never had chicken pox you won’t have shingles.

IANAD but I’ve had shingles.

Right. You can get chicken pox again, but it’s rare. If you do catch it again, you’ll get chicken pox, not shingles. Shingles is the result of the virus coming out of dormancy - it’s not the result of new exposure to the virus.

If your toddler has been vaccinated then he/she is indeed protected.
If your original case was so mild that it didn’t stimulate antibody production, or if you are immunocompromised, you could get the traditional form of chicken pox. If you remember having them, you didn’t have a mild case, so you should be protected.
Your doctor can do antibody titers to see if you and your child are protected, if you are truly concerned. For most people its unnecessary. The test is usually a bit expensive and often has to be sent out to a central lab for processing, so it can take a while to get the results.
Its never wise to expose an unprotected person, child or adult. There are serious complications associated with chicken pox, that kill a number of children and adults every year. The same is true for measles (Rubiola). Rubella isn’t dangerous to the victim, but can cause devastating birth defects during the first trimester. Mumps, the second “M” in the MMR vaccine, can also cause long term problems.

Yet another anecdote: I got CP at least twice; the third possible time was very, very mild. However, each time I got the CP-like rash, my mother did, too, and each time she was sicker than the time before. AFAIK she never got shingles, though.

My grandmother is suffering through this now. First it was shingles, then it migrated and morphed into viral meningitis, now it’s something I don’t recall, a three-word disease the last word of which is, IIRC, “myalgia,” which causes five-second stabs of unbearable pain at completely random intervals. Truly sucky disease.

Can one get shingles from the vaccine, later? I was immune to chicken pox as a child - often exposed, never got it, so my doctor reccomended I get the (then fairly new) vaccine as a teenager, because getting chicken pox as an adult can be very bad. So now that I’ve had the vaccine, can I get shingles? My dad had them a few years ago - they came out the day of my college graduation and he was in miserable pain. (For a few months after that, of course, as well.) My grandmother had it decades ago in her scalp and eye. Obviously it’s something I want to avoid.

Postherpetic neuralgia maybe? I know that’s not 3 words and doesn’t end in myalgia (but does end in algia :slight_smile: ). My dad had that after a bad case of the shingles.

I got chicken pox when I was 31, 15 years ago. It kicked my ass so hard I hope the antibodies I made keep it from ever coming back. I still have a few small divot scars on my chest and forehead thanks to that episode.

Yes, but less commonly than after natural disease. OTOH, the wide use of the vaccine is likely to increase the incidence and severity of shingles in those who have had past natural disease. The reaason for this is that part of what keeps the virus in dormancy is our level of circulating antibodies. Re-exposure to natural disease is how we boost those levels. With the decrease of that “environmental booster effect” those who had past natural disease will have less antibodies at an earlier point and thus earlier and more severe shingles … unless they implement an adult Varivax program. For Merck this ill be the gift that keeps on giving.

Let us keep this in perspective. The resasons to approve Varivax were economic; the sales pitch of playing up those few deaths came later when economics wasn’t selling the public. One hundred deaths a year from chicken pox across the whole country, more than half of them in teen-agers and adults who represented a small fraction of all cases. The risk of serious morbidity or mortality from varicella for low-risk healthy children was infintessimally small and the lion’s share of benefit could have been achieved by immunizing anyone without natural disease by fifth grade and other high riskers (asthma, likely to be on steroids or otherwise immunocompromised, eczema, etc.). It is unclear how long the protection from Varivax will last; and if it creates a population of adults with waning immunity then it may end up doing more harm than good. The next decade or so will tell the tale. Still it is a done deal and we also do not know how long natural varicella provides protection without that environmental booster effect. Getting chickenpox more than once is currently rare; it may not remain so. Still, as a pediatrician and father, I’ve tried to let my youngest two get natural disease like their older sibs. but there are too few chances; we’ll end up with the shot.

And, oh yes, no the vaccine is not a guarentee of protection. There are cases of outbreaks in immunized populations. Cases tend to be milder though. A second, “booster” dose may be recommended in the future. Protection is better if you wait until 15 months of age or beyond (rather than 12 mo.)

Fibromyalgia? That would be another thread, though. . . .