Objectives: To follow the clinical course of herpes zoster and to determine the incidence, frequency of complications and association with malignancy in children and adolescents.
Design: Prospective cohort study in a primary health care setting in Iceland. The main outcome measures were age and sex distribution of patients and discomfort or pain 1, 3 and 12 months after the rash and general health before and 3 to 6 years after the zoster episode.
Results: During observation of the target population for a period of 75750 person years, 121 episodes of acute zoster developed (incidence 1.6/1000/year) in 118 patients. End points were gained for all 118 patients after 554 person years of follow-up. Systemic acyclovir was never used. No patient developed postherpetic neuralgia, moderate or severe pain or any pain lasting longer than 1 month from start of the rash (95% confidence interval, 0 to 0.03). Potential immunomodulating conditions were diagnosed in 3 patients (2.5%) within 3 months of contracting zoster. Only 5 (4%) had a history of severe diseases.
Conclusions: The probability of postherpetic neuralgia in children and adolescents is extremely low. Zoster is seldom associated with undiagnosed malignancy in the primary care setting.