Shingles is not contagious, but a person can transmit the virus when the shingles rash is in the blister phase.
Shingles — also known as herpes zoster — is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Shingles itself is not contagious, but the virus is. If you have shingles, you can pass the virus to another person, which could then cause them to develop chickenpox.
The varicella-zoster virus stays in that person’s nerve tissue indefinitely. It may be inactive for most of a person’s life but can reactivate and cause shingles.
Read on to learn more about shingles and how to prevent the transmission of the varicella-zoster virus.
The varicella-zoster virus
You cannot contract the virus through contact with the saliva or nasal secretions of someone who has shingles, except in rare cases. That means you usually can’t acquire the virus if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on you.
Most people have the varicella-zoster virus in their bodies, but it only reactivates in
The chance of this happening increases as a person gets older. Around half of all cases occur after the age of 60 years, and the risk increases significantly from age 70 onward.
You might also have a higher risk if you:
- have a health condition that affects the immune system
- are taking medications that affect the immune system
- have too much sun exposure
Even a common cold can affect the immune system and trigger shingles in some people.
The most noticeable symptoms are blisters and pain.
The outward symptoms of shingles
But unlike the chickenpox rash, which can occur on different parts of your body, shingles usually affect one area of your body. Shingles blisters are most prevalent on your torso, which wraps around your waist on one side of your body. In fact, the word “shingles” comes from the Latin word for “belt.”
The shingles rash may also appear on one side of your face. If this happens, contact a doctor immediately.
Shingles travels along a nerve path,
Shingles pain varies in severity. It can be challenging to treat with over-the-counter pain relievers.
Some people experience nerve pain after the visible symptoms of shingles clear. This is known as postherpetic neuralgia.
The virus can cause symptoms unrelated to rashes, including:
- fever and chills
- generally feeling unwell
- upset stomach
- tingling, burning, numbness, and pain in the skin
Shingles is not contagious. But if someone comes into contact with the rash at a certain stage, they may contract the varicella-zoster virus and develop chickenpox. If they have chickenpox, shingles can develop later in life.
To prevent transmitting the virus, keep shingles rashes covered. Cover the rash from when the blisters appear to when they crust and scab over.
This usually takes
The varicella-zoster virus is typically less likely to be transmitted with shingles than with chickenpox. However, the varicella-zoster virus can be passed on from when your symptoms start until your rash and blisters have crusted dry.
If you have shingles and are otherwise healthy, you can still go out in public or to work. But be sure to follow these tips:
- Keep the shingles rash clean and covered: This can help prevent other people from coming into contact with your blisters.
- Wash your hands often: Also, try not to touch the blisters.
- Avoid being around pregnant people: The varicella-zoster virus can cause serious health risks for both pregnant people and their babies.
- Avoid other at-risk people: Do not go into proximity to premature babies, infants with low birth weights, and children who haven’t yet had chickenpox or its vaccine. Also, avoid proximity with people who have weakened immune systems.
Doctors recommend the chickenpox vaccine for children. Preventing chickenpox will also prevent shingles.
For adults, a different vaccine called Shingrix is available to help prevent shingles. Health experts recommend the vaccine for all healthy adults
You can get the vaccine even if you:
- have previously had shingles
- do not know if you’ve had chickenpox
- have already had the Zostavax vaccine, an older shingles vaccine in use before 2020
The vaccine is not suitable if you are currently experiencing shingles.
A shingles outbreak usually lasts
Shingles outbreaks are temporary, but they can affect your health and well-being.
Shingles nerve pain can linger, lasting for weeks or even months in some cases. Generally, shingles pain is more persistent and longer lasting in older adults. Younger people usually show no signs of the disease once the blisters have cleared up.
What are the first signs of having shingles?
A few days before you develop the shingles rash, you may develop a headache, fever, and a burning, itchy, tingling, or numb feeling on the affected skin.
What do mild shingles look like?
In some mild cases of shingles, the tingling might not progress to a full-blown rash.
How do I know if I have shingles or just a rash?
Typically, you will experience other symptoms along with the rash, such as a fever. Shingles are
Shingles is a rash that can affect people who have had chickenpox, even if they had it years ago. The varicella-zoster virus causes it. The virus remains dormant in the body, but in some cases, it can reactivate and cause shingles.
The shingles rash is not contagious. But the virus can be passed on to another person through contact with the rash when blisters are present. Then that person may develop chickenpox.
There is less chance of passing on the virus if the rash is covered, and transmission can only happen from the time blisters form to when they scab over.
Having the shingles vaccine can help protect you from shingles.