Why is shingles so bad for adults but chickenpox is fine for children?
Chickenpox is the disease caused by 1st time exposure to a virus. It’s “fine” because it’s *not* an especially lethal virus, not saying having chicken pox is enjoyable, but it’s usually not considered a significant illness in terms of death or hospitalization. Since it’s a 1st time exposure illness, it’s usually contracted by younger people who tend to have healthy immune systems as well.
Shingles isn’t just “adult chickenpox”, it’s specifically the result of the chickenpox virus residing in the nervous system years after the initial infection. A shingles flair up occurs within the nervous system and triggers the immune system to attack your own nerves. So Shingle’s really bad problems involve damage to a really vital parts of your body (as opposed to itchy skin spots). Finally, shingles is usually correlated to older people and people with immune problems already. This means shingles can often occur in a “problem prone” population to begin with.
Finally, the symptoms of the rashes are very different as well. chickenpox causes more of an itchy, uncomfortable rash localized within the skin cells. Despite looking similar, Shingles is an infection of nerve endings meaning it’s symptoms are less “itching” and “discomfort” and more “searing pain” and “being boiled alive”.
It is really about how good your immune response is. For young children they generally have a good immune system so fight off most of the impact of chicken pox in a few days with little long term impact. Shingles is chicken pox reactivating which tends to happen late in life when the immune system is failing so potentially the impact of shingles can be a concern.
Oh chickenpox is not considered “fine” for children anymore, precisely because it leads to shingles in adults sometime down the line, since the virus is already present but dormant.