Tuesday, April 9, 2024

When Are You Not Contagious With Shingles

How Shingles Cause Chickenpox

Shingles: What you need to know about causes, symptoms, and prevention.

People who have not had chickenpox can catch the varicella-zoster virus if they have close contact with a person who has shingles. According to the CDC, “The virus that causes shingles, varicella zoster virus, can spread from a person with active shingles and cause chickenpox in someone who had never had chickenpox or received chickenpox vaccine.”

The most common way to get chickenpox is “by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters,” you also can get chickenpox “through tiny droplets from infected people that get into the air after they breathe or talk.” Fortunately, the droplet spread doesn’t happen with shingles.

Although you should still take steps to avoid contact with the shingles blisters, someone who has had chickenpox or two doses of the chickenpox vaccine should be well protected if they have to be around someone with shingles. Here are some additional things you should know about the contagiousness of shingles.

  • If your child is unvaccinated or has only had one dose of chickenpox vaccine , getting vaccinated within 3 to 5 days of exposure to someone with shingles might decrease their risk of getting chickenpox.
  • Symptoms of breakthrough chickenpoxâgetting sick after being vaccinatedâare usually much milder than natural chickenpox infections.

Why Does Shingles Appear Mostly On One Side Or In One Area Of Your Body

The virus travels in specific nerves, so you will often see shingles occur in a band on one side of your body. This band corresponds to the area where the nerve transmits signals. The shingles rash stays somewhat localized to an area. It doesnt spread over your whole body. Your torso is a common area, as is your face.

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.

Also Check: How Long Do Shingles Last After Medication

What Can Be Done To Prevent The Spread Of Shingles

A vaccine for chickenpox is available and it is hoped that individuals immunized against chickenpox will be less likely to develop shingles in later life.

The risk of spreading the virus that causes shingles is low if the rash is covered. People with shingles should keep the rash covered, not touch or scratch the rash, and wash their hands often to prevent the spread of shingles. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious.

Can You Get Shingles If You Havent Had Chickenpox

How to Know If You Have Shingles Blisters

No. You cant get shingles if youve never had chickenpox, but you can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles. If youve never had chickenpox and you come into direct contact with the oozing, blister-like rash of someone with shingles, the varicella-zoster virus can infect you and you would develop chickenpox.

Once youve had chickenpox, you could develop shingles at some point in your life. This is because the varicella-zoster virus never fully goes away after youve had chickenpox. It lies quietly inactive in your nerve tissue. Later in life, the virus may become active again and appears as shingles.

Can you get chickenpox more than once?

Its rare to get chickenpox twice in your life. Once youve had chickenpox, youre usually immune to it for the rest of your life. However, its not totally impossible. If you have a severely weakened immune system , you can get chickenpox a second time. If youve had chickenpox, you are more likely to get shingles at some point in your life than a repeat bout of chickenpox.

Recommended Reading: What Is Good For Shingles

Are There Complications Of Shingles

Shingles can have complications that last long after the rash is gone, including:

  • Brain inflammation or facial paralysis if it affects certain nerves
  • Eye problems and vision loss if your rash was in or around your eye
  • Pain that lasts long after the outbreak, called postherpetic neuralgia. It affects up to 1 in 5 people who get shingles.

Check If You Have Shingles

The first signs of shingles can be:

  • a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin
  • a headache or feeling generally unwell

A rash will appear a few days later.

Usually you get the shingles rash on your chest and tummy, but it can appear anywhere on your body including on your face, eyes and genitals.

The rash appears as blotches on your skin, on 1 side of your body only. A rash on both the left and right of your body is unlikely to be shingles.

Also Check: Does Shingles Vaccine Lessen Symptoms

When You Should See Your Doctor

Go to your doctor as soon as you see the rash, as treatment is most effective if its started early.

Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medicine, which may help you recover faster and will reduce the chance that the pain will last for a long time.

Your doctor may also give you medicine for pain relief.

See your doctor again if:

  • you get any blisters on your face
  • your fever or pain gets worse
  • your neck gets stiff, you cant hear properly or you feel less able to think clearly
  • you develop new symptoms such as drooping or weakness to one side of your face
  • the blisters show signs of infection or if you see milky yellow drainage from the blister sites.

Call Healthline if you are unsure what you should do.

Who Should Avoid Contact With Shingles

Is shingles contagious?

One way of preventing the spread is to avoid contact with people who have shingles blisters.

If a person gets chickenpox, they usually only have it once. This is for shingles. A person is unlikely to have shingles more than once, unless they have a weakened immune system, which may result from a health issue or immunosuppressant treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Anyone with shingles blisters should especially avoid contact with:

  • Pregnant people who have never had chickenpox or its vaccination: If chickenpox develops during pregnancy, especially 521 days before birth, it can be dangerous for the fetus.
  • Children who have not had chickenpox or its vaccination: Until a child is vaccinated, they should avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox or shingles blisters.
  • People with weakened immune systems, such as:
  • infants born early or with a low birth weight
  • people with HIV, leukemia, lymphoma, or other health issues that have this immune effect
  • people who take immunosuppressant medications, such as chemotherapy
  • people who have had organ transplants

After contact with the varicella virus, a person in any of the above groups may be unable to ward off the infection. Their risk of developing chickenpox, then shingles and its complications may be higher.These groups are also likely to have the illnesses for longer, and the symptoms may be more severe.

increase the risk of shingles.

Ways of managing the symptoms include:

Also Check: Will Insurance Cover Shingles Vaccine

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.

What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles Without A Rash

The symptoms of ZSH are similar to the symptoms of shingles, but without a rash. The symptoms are usually isolated to one side of the body and commonly occur on the face and neck, and in the eyes. Symptoms can also occur in the internal organs. Typical symptoms include:

Shingles isnt contagious. You cant give someone else shingles. If you have shingles and are in contact with someone who hasnt had chickenpox or wasnt vaccinated for chickenpox, you can give that person chickenpox. That person would have to come in direct contact with your shingles rash.

If you have shingles without a rash, you shouldnt be able to pass it to others. Still, its a good idea to avoid contact with people who havent had chickenpox as well as pregnant women until your other symptoms have cleared up.

You can only get shingles if youve had chickenpox in the past. Youre at an increased risk for shingles if you:

  • are over age 50

Read Also: How To Prevent Shingles Outbreak

What Are The Complications Of Shingles

After the shingles rash has disappeared, you might continue to have nerve pain in that same area. Postherpetic neuralgia can last for months or years and become quite severe.

More than 10% of people who get shingles develop postherpetic neuralgia. Researchers dont know why some people get postherpetic neuralgia and others dont. It may be that nerves become more sensitive or that the virus may be invading and damaging the central nervous system.

Other complications include:

  • Other types of nerve issues like numbness or itching.
  • A bacterial infection of the shingles rash.
  • Eye and ear inflammation if the rash is near these organs.

Will Shingles Go Away On Its Own

Are Shingles Contagious?

Shingles isn’t life-threatening, but it can be incredibly painful and, in some cases, complications can arise. While this rash typically goes away its own, prompt treatment can reduce your pain and help shingles go away faster.

“Several antivirals can be used to treat shingles. These drugs can help you heal more quickly and reduce your pain, but they are most effective when started within 72 hours of your rash appearing. This means it’s important to see your doctor as soon as you suspect shingles,” says Dr. Brown. “When it comes to the pain associated with shingles, most people are able to manage it using over-the-counter pain relievers. But, pain can be severe for some people. In these cases, your doctor can prescribe stronger pain medications.”

Beyond treating your immediate pain and rash, seeing your doctor is also important since serious complications can occur as a result of shingles, such as:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia pain that lasts for months to years after the rash clears, with this pain being debilitating in some cases
  • Skin infection occurs if the open sores of your rash become infected with bacteria, which can require antibiotics and delay healing
  • Vision problems while rare, if your rash develops near your eye, the associated inflammation can damage your retina and, in some cases, result in vision loss

Also Check: What Can You Put On Shingles To Relieve Itching

When Should People Seek Medical Care For Shingles

If people develop pain and/or a rash in a band on one side of the body or face, they should seek medical care is as soon as possible as treatments may reduce the pain and any possible further nerve or eye problems. If the rash occurs near the nose or eyes, they should seek emergency medical care. Individuals with a medical problem or taking medication that decreases their immune response should seek help immediately if they suspect they may be developing shingles.

Children should be vaccinated against chickenpox and older individuals should discuss the shingles vaccine with their doctors to reduce the risk of developing shingles.

What Makes Shingles So Painful

The most common complication of shingles is a condition called postherpetic neuralgia . People diagnosed with PHN have severe pain for at least 90 days after the shingles rash has cleared up. The pain can lead to a lower quality of life for many people. As people get older, they are more likely to develop PHN, and the pain is more likely to be severe.

Recommended Reading: Do You Get A Rash With Shingles

What Triggers Shingles Flare

Most people who get shingles will have a one and done type of experience. In other words, theyll get it and likely never have it again. That said, there are some people who get shingles more than once.

Heres how it happens: the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox, lies dormant in nerve cells after you recover from chickenpox or shingles.

For the most part, the virus stays inactive after your shingles symptoms subside and youve healed. But certain risk factors can trigger flare-ups and cause the virus to reactivate. Experts call this recurrent shingles.

A 2021 review looked at the incidences of first and recurrent shingles episodes and found that the average time between infections was 2 years for people ages 45 to 54 and 3 years for those ages 55 and older.

In addition, of the participants who experienced a flare-up, the incidence was higher in those who were immunosuppressed compared with people with healthy immune systems.

In other words, if you have a compromised or weakened immune system, you have a greater chance of getting shingles again. This can happen if you:

  • are undergoing chemotherapy

Is The Zostavax Vaccine Still Being Used

Is Shingles Contagious? How Do You Get Shingles?

Yes. The CDC, however, recommends Zostavax for adults age 60 and older, but not routinely for people aged 50 to 59. Zostavax is given as a single-dose shot versus the two-dose shot for Shingrix. Zostavax is less effective than Shingrix in preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia .

You can consider Zostavax if you are allergic to Shingrix or if Shingrix is unavailable because of supply shortage and you want some immediate protection from a possible case of shingles and/or postherpetic neuralgia. Because its a weakened live vaccine, it may be dangerous if you have cancer, HIV, or take steroids, chemotherapy or other medications that suppress your immune system. Ask your healthcare provider if the Zostavax vaccine is an option for you.

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Why Doesnt Having Chickenpox Earlier In Life Provide Immunity Against Having Shingles Later

After having chickenpox, your body doesnt rid your system of the virus. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of the spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. In most people, the virus simply stays there quietly and doesnt cause problems. Scientists arent always sure why the virus gets active again, but they know stress can be a cause.

Public Health Significance And Occurrence Of Chickenpox Or Shingles

Chickenpox is a highly contagious but generally mild disease and is endemic in the population. It becomes epidemic among susceptible individuals mainly during winter and early spring. More than 90 per cent of cases are children under 15 years of age.

Herpes zoster occurs in 20 per cent of people, mostly when they are elderly due to the reactivation of latent virus from the dorsal root ganglia.

Read Also: What Should I Not Eat With Shingles

Assess Your Pain Levels

In general, most people with active shingles infections can perform daily activities as tolerated, but rating your pain can help you decide when to do a specific exercise or activity and when to avoid it. Consider using a numerical pain rating scale, which has you rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst possible pain.

Make a note of your pain level each day and if a particular activity worsened it. Consider writing it down in a journal or as a note in your phone. That way, you can track which activities affect your pain levels and adjust accordingly.

What Is The Best Way To Prevent Shingles

Shingles and Shingrix, Everything People Need to Know

Your best chance at preventing shingles is to get vaccinated. There is one vaccine, Shingrix, which is very effective in preventing shingles and complications, including postherpetic neuralgia.

  • Shingrix is a recommended vaccine for all adults age 50 years and older whether or not they have had shingles or previously received varicella vaccine. The vaccine is a series of two doses. The administration of the second dose is given 2 to 6 months after the first dose.

Read Also: What Does Shingles Look Like On Legs

How Shingles Develops

People who get infected with VZV develop chickenpox. The virus then lays dormant. In some people, it becomes active again in adulthood, causing the painful condition called shingles.

Not everyone who contracts chickenpox will develop shingles later in life. In rare cases, shingles may occur multiple times in a persons life.

How Is It Treated

It is best to start treatment as soon as possible after you notice the rash. See your healthcare provider to discuss treatment with antiviral medicine, such as acyclovir. This medicine is most effective if you start taking it within the first 3 days of the rash. Antiviral medicine may speed your recovery and lessen the chance that the pain will last for a long time.

Your provider may also recommend or prescribe:

  • medicine for pain
  • antibacterial salves or lotions to help prevent bacterial infection of the blisters
  • corticosteroids

Also Check: What Does Shingles Start Out Like

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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