Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Even after you’ve recovered from chickenpox, the virus remains in your nervous system and can cause shingles decades later. Anyone who’s had chickenpox can get shingles, though older adults are the most likely to develop it.

Shingles causes painful, burning blisters that often look like stripes spanning one side of your torso. They are usually red on white skin but can look purple or dark brown on darker skin.

Although shingles itself is not contagious, the blisters that appear on your skin can be. The fluid from these blisters can spread the varicella-zoster virus.

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

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

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

This means that you should stay away from 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.

What about lakes or other bodies of water?

If you can’t ensure you will be alone, you shouldn’t go swimming. Whether you want to take a swim in fresh or salt water, remember that neither will protect other people from the virus.

In fact, 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 7 to 10 days after you experience the first symptoms.

When 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

Once your rash has gone away completely, you can stop taking these extra precautions.

If you can make sure 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 been vaccinated against it. Even one uncovered blister can spread the virus.

Stay away from the beach or other places where you can’t keep your rash covered.

Chickenpox is also caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It causes itchy blisters and is most common in younger kids.

Since the same virus is responsible for both shingles and chickenpox, should you follow similar rules when it comes to swimming? The answer is yes; however, you should be taking even more precautions.

Unlike shingles, which is contagious only through direct contact with the blisters, chickenpox easily spreads through the respiratory tract. In fact, if you have chickenpox, up to 90 percent of the people close to you who are not immune will also contract the virus.

This means that you should avoid contact with all people, if possible, but especially with those who haven’t had chickenpox or received the chickenpox 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. It’s not a good idea to go swimming in public places with either of these conditions, whether it’s a 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.