Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox.
While shingles cannot be passed from person-to-person, the varicella zoster virus can — via direct contact with fluid from an active shingles rash to a person who has never had chickenpox. When that happens, the person exposed to the virus might develop chickenpox, but not shingles.
The virus can only be spread when the rash is in the blister-phase, not before. And if covered, risk of spreading the virus is low. Once the rash has crusted over, the patient is no longer contagious.
Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body. The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7-10 days. Shingles typically takes 2-4 weeks to clear up.
People often feel pain, itching, or tingling in the area 1-5 days before the rash appears.
Most commonly, shingles forms a single stripe of rash on either the left or right hemisphere of the body. Occasionally, the rash occurs on one side of the face. Less commonly, the rash looks similar to chickenpox and is spread more liberally (usually this only occurs in people with weakened immune systems). Shingles can sometimes affect the eyes and cause loss of vision.
Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach.
These simple steps can help you reduce the severity and spread of shingles:
- Cover the rash at all times
- Do not touch or scratch the rash
- Wash hands often to prevent the spread of the virus
- Before the rash develops crusts, avoid contact with:
- pregnant women who have never had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it
- premature or low birth-weight infants
- people with weakened immune systems — including those receiving immunosuppressive medications or undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, and people with HIV.
Antiviral medicines like acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir have been developed to reduce the length and severity of the illness. They are most effective when started soon after the shingles rash appears. Consequently, you should call your health care provider to explore treatment options as soon as you contract or believe you have contracted shingles.
Topical or oral pain medicines (analgesics) may help reduce the pain caused by shingles. Wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths may also help relieve itching.
Vaccination is the ONLY way to reduce the risk of getting shingles. The CDC recommends that people aged 50 years and older get two doses of the Shingrix® shingles vaccine.
If you have questions about your shingles vaccination, you should talk with your VaxOn Pharmacist or other health care professional.
There are currently 2 vaccines available that can reduce the risk of developing shingles and the complications from the disease in older adults. The sooner you get vaccinated, the better your chances of protecting yourself from shingles.
The CDC recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get 2 doses of Shingrix®, administered 2 to 6 months apart. Shingrix® is the preferred vaccine over Zostavax®, a shingles vaccine in use since 2006.
If you have previously received the Zostavax® vaccine, it is recommended that you now receive the 2-dose series of Shingrix®.
These vaccines cannot be used to treat shingles, or the nerve pain that shingles may cause. Talk to your healthcare professional to see if a shingles vaccine is right for you.
While no medication can cure shingles, medication can reduce the risk of complications and lessen the intensity of the pain associated with the disease if it is diagnosed early.