Though shingles is not contagious, the blisters that appear on your skin can be. The fluid from these blisters can spread the varicella-zoster virus, so you should avoid activities like swimming, even in chlorinated water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should avoid direct contact with others while your shingles rash is blistering.

What does this mean for you if you’re considering hitting the pool? It means you should avoid swimming. Let’s discuss why you should stay away from pools or anywhere else other people swim.

Shingles itself is not contagious, but the fluid from the blisters is. If people who have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine come into direct contact with the fluid from the blisters, it can spread the varicella-zoster virus.

This means you should avoid any communal pool, hot tub, or water park while you have blisters, even if the water is chlorinated. While the chlorine in swimming pools kills bacteria, it doesn’t kill viruses like the varicella-zoster virus.

Whether you want to swim in fresh or salt water, neither will protect other people from the virus.

It’s best to stay away from the beach entirely while you have blisters.

Once your blisters have dried out, they are generally no longer contagious, according to a 2018 research review. This usually happens about 10 days after your rash turns into fluid-filled blisters.

After this happens, you can return to swimming — but you still need to take a few precautions. These include:

  • making sure that absolutely all of your blisters have dried out
  • never sharing a towel with anyone else
  • staying away from newborns, pregnant people, immunocompromised people, or older adults

You can stop taking extra precautions once your rash has gone away completely.

If you can ensure your rash is completely covered at all times, it’s OK to go out while you have blisters, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Make sure to take extra precautions when you’re around people who haven’t had chickenpox or received a vaccination for it. Even one uncovered blister can spread the virus.

It’s best to stay away from the beach or places where you can’t keep the rash covered.

The same virus is responsible for both shingles and chickenpox. Chickenpox causes itchy blisters and is most common in younger kids.

While shingles is contagious only through direct contact with the blisters, chickenpox is also contagious through respiratory secretions like saliva. If you have chickenpox, up to 90% of the people close to you who are not immune typically also contract the virus.

This means you should avoid contact with all people, if possible, but especially with those who haven’t had chickenpox or received the vaccine.

Once all of your blisters have dried out and crusted, it’s OK to resume swimming.

The same virus causes both chickenpox and shingles. Swimming in public places with either of these conditions is not a good idea, whether in a chlorinated pool or a natural body of water.

It’s OK to go out with shingles if your blisters are covered. But if you have chickenpox, you need to avoid contact with other people until your rash has dried out.