What Should You Expect If You Get Shingles
Shingles can be a very painful condition. If you think you have the symptoms of shingles, see your healthcare provider right away. Starting antiviral medications early can ease your discomfort and end symptoms earlier.
A better approach to shingles is to take action and do what you can to lessen your risk of getting it. If you’ve never had shingles in the past, talk to your healthcare provider about getting the shingles vaccine. If youve never had chickenpox, talk with your healthcare provider about getting the chickenpox vaccine.
Some People Are More Likely To Have A Second Outbreak
Experts don’t know exactly why the shingles virus reactivates, Adalja says, but it likely has to do with a weakened immune system. Some factors that may weaken your immune system and contribute to shingles outbreaks include:
- Old age: Most people get shingles over the age of 50 and your risk gets higher as you get older.
- Sex:Women over the age of 50 are also more likely to have a second shingles outbreak than men of the same age.
- Stress: Your body reacts to emotional stress by releasing a hormone called cortisol, and this hormone can make your immune system less effective.
- Chemotherapy: The medications used to treat cancer can make your immune system weaker.
- HIV and AIDS: Autoimmune disorders like HIV and AIDS can put you at much higher risk for shingles.
- Organ or bone marrow transplants: Before you get a transplant, you often need to take medication to weaken your immune system, so that your body will not reject the new tissue.
Are There Natural Ways To Boost Your Immune System To Help Lessen The Chances Of Developing Shingles
Stress is a risk factor for developing shingles, so limiting your stress can be helpful. Try meditation, yoga or other relaxation methods.
Other things you can do include:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
- Dont smoke or use tobacco products.
These are all tips for an overall healthy lifestyle, not just for reducing your chance of getting shingles.
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Who Is At Risk For Getting Shingles
People who have had chickenpox who are more likely to develop shingles include those:
- With a weakened immune system .
- Over the age of 50.
- Who have been ill.
- Who have experienced trauma.
- Who are under stress.
The chickenpox virus doesnt leave your body after you have chickenpox. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of your spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. For the majority of people, the virus stays there quietly and doesn’t cause problems. Researchers aren’t always sure why the virus gets reactivated, but this typically occurs at times of stress.
Shingles Vaccine Reduces Your Risk Of Getting Shingles
While there is no cure for shingles, getting the shingles vaccine can greatly reduce your risk of getting this disease.
Shingles vaccine reduces risk
The CDC recommends the shingles vaccine for healthy adults who are 50 years of age or older.
If you think you may already have shingles, treatment is important. It can reduce your pain and how long the rash lasts.
Find out how dermatologists diagnose and treat this condition at, Shingles: Diagnosis and treatment.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Prevent Shingles: Get vaccinated. Page last reviewed July 23, 2018. Last accessed March 28, 2019.
ReferencesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention . Prevent Shingles: Get vaccinated. Page last reviewed July 23, 2018. Last accessed March 28, 2019.
Dooling KL, Guo A, et al. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccines. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018 67:103-8.
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How Do I Get The Shingles Vaccination
Once you become eligible for the shingles vaccination, a GP or practice nurse will offer you the vaccine when you attend the surgery for general reasons.
You can have a shingles vaccine at the same time as most other vaccines. But try to leave 7 days between the shingles vaccine and a coronavirus vaccine, so that if you have any side effects you’ll know which vaccine they were from.
If you are worried that you may miss out on the shingles vaccination, contact your GP surgery to arrange an appointment to have the vaccine.
When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider
If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, call your healthcare provider. You should tell your provider as quickly as possible if you get these symptoms:
- A fever that lasts longer than 4 days or goes above 102°F
- The rash becomes more red or warm and tender, and has pus
- A change in mental status, such as confusion or extreme sleepiness
- Having problems walking
- Having problems with breathing or a frequent cough
- Frequent vomiting
- Chickenpox is a common childhood illness. It is easily spread to others.
- There is a vaccine available to prevent chickenpox.
- Symptoms are usually mild in children. They may be life-threatening to adults and people of any age with weak immune systems.
- The rash of chickenpox is unique and the diagnosis can usually be made on the appearance of the rash and a history of exposure.
- Treatment helps reduce fever and itchiness of rash. Children with chickenpox should NEVER be given aspirin.
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How Is Shingles Diagnosed
Doctor usually can diagnose shingles by looking at the rash. Rarely, a doctor may send a small sample of infected skin to be checked in a laboratory.
If you think your child might have shingles, call your doctor. If your child might have shingles on the face, it’s important to get a doctor’s help right away to keep the infection from spreading to the eyes.
Who Should Not Be Vaccinated With Shingrix
You shouldnt receive the Shingrix vaccine if you:
- Have ever had a severe allergy to this vaccine or any ingredient in this vaccine.
- Are breastfeeding or pregnant.
- Currently have shingles.
- Are ill and have a high fever.
- Have tested negative for immunity to varicella-zoster virus .
Ask your healthcare provider if the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh any potential risks.
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Age And Weak Immune System Increase Your Risk Of Getting Shingles
Although anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles, your risk of developing shingles increases with age. Most people get shingles in their 50s or later in life.
Its rare to get shingles before 40 years of age. Scientists are still studying why this happens. Its likely that your immune system keeps the virus dormant. When the immune system starts to weaken, which may start in your 50s, the virus can wake up.
Age increases your risk of getting shingles
Many people who had chickenpox dont remember having it and are unaware that they can get shingles.
Anyone who has a weakened immune system also has an increased risk of getting shingles. This includes people who have:
Some cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma
Human immunodeficiency virus
To take medication that suppresses the immune system, such as people living with an organ transplant, severe psoriasis, or advanced psoriatic arthritis
To receive certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy
Who Should Get Shingrix
Adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months. Adults 19 years and older who have or will have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy should also get two doses of Shingrix. If needed, people with weakened immune systems can get the second dose 1 to 2 months after the first.
You should get Shingrix even if in the past you:
- Received varicella vaccine
There is no maximum age for getting Shingrix.
If you had shingles in the past, Shingrix can help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after having shingles before you can receive Shingrix, but generally you should make sure the shingles rash has gone away before getting vaccinated.
Chickenpox and shingles are related because they are caused by the same virus . After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body. It can reactivate years later and cause shingles.
Shingrix is available in doctors offices and pharmacies.
If you have questions about Shingrix, talk with your healthcare provider.
* A shingles vaccine called zoster vaccine live is no longer available for use in the United States, as of November 18, 2020. If you had Zostavax in the past, you should still get Shingrix. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best time to get Shingrix.
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Vaccinate To Decrease Your Shingles Risk
Your chances of getting shingles increase as you get older. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults age 50 and older get vaccinated against shingles.
Two vaccines, recombinant zoster vaccine and zoster vaccine live are available in the United States to prevent shingles. Shingrix is the preferred vaccine.
The CDC recommends Shingrix for adults 50 years and older, whether or not they have already had shingles or previously received the Zostavaxvaccine, which has been used since 2006. You should get two doses of Shingrix, two to six months apart. Two doses of Shingrix are more than 90% effective at preventing shingles. Shingrix is also 90% effective in helping to prevent PHN in those who get shingles despite being vaccinated.
While Zostavax is still available, studies show it is less effective than Shingrix.Zostavax may be used in some healthy adults 60 years and older, for example, in those who are allergic to Shingrix.
There is no specific time that you must wait after having shingles before receiving the shingles vaccine. But its probably best to hold off until the shingles rash has disappeared before getting vaccinated.
About the Author
Urmila Parlikar, Associate Director, Digital Health Products, Harvard Health Publishing
How To Avoid Getting Shingles More Than Once
Getting the shingles vaccine protects you against shinglesand from a shingles recurrence too.
Zostavax, approved in 2006, was once the only shingles vaccine available to older individuals. As of November 2020, Zostavax is no longer available in the US.
Another vaccine, Shingrix, was approved in 2017 by the FDA for adults 50 and older, and its said to be over 90% effective, according to the CDC.
This new vaccine is a very important one for all of us to consider, Dr. Cutler said. In my practice we routinely recommend this vaccine to everyone over 50.
With the possibility that shingles can recur, experts urge anyone who has had shingles to be vaccinated as well. I believe that its imperative that you work with your health care provider to get vaccinated as soon as youre in this age range or have had shingles, Dr. Cutler said.
Shingrix is given in two doses, scheduled two to six months apart. Its important to note that you should also get Shingrix even if you had Zostavax, the older shingles vaccine, Dr. Cutler added. You should also get it if you dont know if you had chickenpox as a child.
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How Long Between Shingles Attack And Recurrence
The time between an initial shingles case and its relapse can vary a great deal, and there is no established figure. However, researchers have noted most of these flare-ups arise in the four- to eight-year window following an initial attack. Recurrence within three years is much rarer.
Factors such as overall health status and the presence of other diseases can spur attacks, and there are preventative medications and approaches.
Stay Away From Certain Groups Of People If You Have Shingles
You cannot spread shingles to others. But people who have not had chickenpox before could catch chickenpox from you.
This is because shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus.
Try to avoid:
- pregnant people who have not had chickenpox before
- people with a weakened immune system like someone having chemotherapy
- babies less than 1 month old unless you gave birth to them, as your baby should be protected from the virus by your immune system
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Urgent Advice: Get Advice From 111 As Soon As You Suspect Shingles
You might need medicine to help speed up your recovery and avoid longer-lasting problems.
This works best if taken within 3 days of your symptoms starting.
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Go to 111.nhs.uk or .
Get an urgent GP appointment
A GP may be able to treat you.
Ask your GP surgery for an urgent appointment.
What Are The Symptoms Of Chickenpox
Symptoms are usually mild in children. But symptoms may be life-threatening to adults and people of any age with weak immune systems. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Fatigue and irritability one to two days before the rash begins
- Itchy rash on the trunk, face, scalp, under the armpits, on the upper arms and legs, and inside the mouth. The rash appears in several crops. It starts as flat red spots and progresses to raised red bumps that then become blisters.
The initial symptoms of chickenpox may resemble other infections. Once the skin rash and blisters happen, it is usually obvious to a healthcare provider that it is chickenpox. If a person who has been vaccinated against the disease is exposed, he or she may get a milder illness with less severe rash and mild or no fever. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
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What Is The Risk Of Getting The Shingles Virus A Second Time Or More
November 11, 2021 By Will Sowards
Shingles is a common viral infection that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Like chickenpox, shingles causes a painful rash to appear on the skin. If you had chickenpox as a child, you have a higher risk of developing shingles as an adult. Shingles normally affects people over 50, but it can affect anyone.
The chickenpox virus lies dormant in your nerves after it subsides. It can reawaken later in life as the shingles virus. When the virus reactivates, the infected nerves, and the skin the nerves go to, become inflamed, causing a burning or stabbing pain. A few days later, when the virus reaches the skin, a rash of blisters appears. The skin may be very sensitive, unable to tolerate even the lightest touch.
While chickenpox cannot reactivate until later in life, the same cannot be said of shingles. After the rash has cleared up, the virus remains dormant in the nerves and can reactivate at any time. Some patients have had multiple relapses of the shingles virus.
While the chance of shingles recurring is rare, there are some factors that can increase the risk. An immunocompromised person has a higher risk of getting shingles more than once. Immune health can become compromised by many factors such as cancers, autoimmune disorders, age, anxiety and stress, chronic conditions, gender, and increased levels of pain.
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Who Should Be Vaccinated With Shingrix
The Shingrix vaccine is recommended for those 50 years of age and older who are in good health.
You should get the Shingrix vaccine even if:
- Youve had shingles already.
- Youve been previously vaccinated with Zostavax . If youve been vaccinated with Zostavax, wait at least eight weeks before getting vaccinated with Shingrix.
- You dont know for sure if youve ever had chickenpox.
Ask your healthcare provider, who knows your entire health history if getting this vaccine is right for you.
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Preventing The Virus Spreading
If you have the shingles rash, do not share towels or flannels, go swimming, or play contact sports. This will help prevent the virus being passed on to someone who has not had chickenpox.
You should also avoid work or school if your rash is weeping and cannot be covered.
Chickenpox can be particularly dangerous for certain groups of people. If you have shingles, avoid:
- women who are pregnant and have not had chickenpox before as they could catch it from you, which may harm their unborn baby
- people who have a weak immune system, such as someone with HIV or AIDS
- babies less than one month old, unless it is your own baby, in which case your baby should have antibodies to protect them from the virus
Once your blisters have dried and scabbed over, you are no longer contagious and will not need to avoid anyone.
How Often Does Shingles Return
Experts don’t know exactly how many people get shingles more than once. They do know it comes back more often in people with weakened immune systems.
If your immune system is healthy:
- In the first several years, your chances of having shingles again are lower than it is for people who have never had shingles.
- Over time, your chances of a second bout go up. One study found that within 7 years, the odds of getting it again may be almost 5%. That’s about the same as the odds of getting shingles the first time.
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Why Do I Need Two Doses Of Shingrix
In addition to a painful rash, shingles can lead to serious health complications like PHN, pneumonia, vision loss, hearing problems, and encephalitis . Research indicates that about 1% to 4% of people with shingles will be hospitalized.
Two doses of Shingrix offer effective protection against shingles and related complications for at least seven years. Among healthy adults ages 50-69, Shingrix is more than 90% effective in preventing PHN when two doses are administered. Among adults ages 70 and older, it is 89% effective.