What Is Shingles, And Is It Contagious? Basic Facts About This Painful Rash, And What To Do If You Have It

Date September 4, 2018 10:00

Shingles is a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 people will get shingles at some point in their lives. It develops in some people who have had chickenpox; if you haven’t had chickenpox, you won’t get shingles.

It usually takes 2 to 4 weeks for shingles to clear up. Although shingles is relatively harmless to most people, it can be contagious. Also, it can cause serious discomfort until it passes.

shinglesTashatuvango /

READ ALSO: Children's Disease" Or Chickenpox: What Are The Symptoms And Can Adults Be Infected?

What causes shingles?

As we mentioned above, shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus. If you’ve had chickenpox, you may develop shingles later in life. It happens when the virus, which stays in your body and can be dormant for years, becomes active again and causes a rash.

It’s not exactly clear why some people who’ve had chickenpox get shingles and some don’t. Doctors think it has to do with weakened immunity. Older people, people with chronic health conditions that weaken immunity, cancer patients, and people who take certain medicines (such as steroids) are more likely to develop shingles.

Irenaphoto /

READ ALSO: Scarlet Fever: Warning Symptoms And How To Avoid Getting Infected

What are the sign and symptoms of shingles?

Shingles causes a characteristic painful rash, which usually appears in the form of a strip or band on one side of the body. The most common sites for the rash to appear are the ribs, belly, and back. The rash may also affect the face. If it’s around the eye, you should seek medical treatment, as it can cause vision problems. In people with weakened immune systems, the rash may be widespread and look more like chickenpox.

shingles rashMumemories /

Days before the rash appears, there can be symptoms such as pain, itching, and tingling, affecting the future site of the rash. Some people may also have fever, chills, headache, and upset stomach.

Voyagerix /

Once the rash has appeared, it soon starts to blister. Blisters break open and crust over. During this period, it’s extremely important to keep the affected area clean to prevent bacteria from entering trough broken skin and causing an infection.

Once blisters have crusted over, the area starts to heal. Shingles is not supposed to leave any permanent scars.


A post shared by Skin Solutions (@skinsolutionsja) on

What to do if you have shingles

There’s no specific way to treat shingles. However, there are things you can do to ease your discomfort until the rash clears up and prevent vulnerable people from contracting the virus and developing chickenpox.

Asisyaj /

Here’s what you should do:

1. Wear loose-fitting clothing to lessen friction.

2. Keep the rash clean and dry and avoid scratching to lower the risk of infection.

3. If you need to keep the area covered, use a non-adherent dressing.

4. You may use an anti-itch lotion or another product to relieve the itching.

5. If the rash is very painful, take a painkiller (after your doctor’s approval).

6. Prevent other people (especially pregnant women, babies, seniors, and people with weakened immunity) from coming into contact with blisters.

Shingles usually isn’t serious, so there’s no reason to worry. But if you have other symptoms in addition to the rash, be sure to tell your doctor about it.

Source: Mayo Clinic, HealthLine, Medical News Today

READ ALSO: Why Does Your Skin Itch? 5 Possible Causes, And When To See The Doctor

This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.