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Is Shingles Contagious?

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Is Shingles Contagious?

writtenByWritten by: Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewBy Reviewed by: Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Reviewer

Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.

March 30, 2021 Read Time - 3 minutes

What Is Shingles?

If you suspect you may be suffering from shingles, you might be worried about passing the painful condition to somebody else. You may also have questions and concerns about your own health, and how will it affect your everyday life?

You may have questions such as, “what is shingles?”, “what triggers a shingles outbreak?” and even “how long is shingles contagious?” Well, worry not. We’re here to help answer all of these questions and more. 

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What Causes Shingles?

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once a person recovers from chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus that caused it lies dormant in nerve tissue near your brain and spinal cord. A diminished immune system can reactivate the virus, causing shingles.

Shingles is more common in people with reduced immune systems and those over the age of 50. While most people only get shingles once, some people experience shingles two or more times.

What Are Common Shingles Symptoms?

Symptoms of shingles usually affect one side of your body or face. Symptoms of shingles typically last two to six weeks and may include:

  • Itching
  • Pain, Burning, Tingling, Or Numbness
  • Red Rash, Usually Only On One Side Of The Body Or Face
  • Blisters, Which Will Break Open And Crust Over
  • Sensitivity To Light Or Touch
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache

While many people consider the shingles rash to be the classic symptom of shingles, the pain usually starts first and may even occur without the rash. Without the rash, shingles’ pain may be misdiagnosed since it may feel like it’s affecting an internal organ.

Is Shingles Contagious?

The virus that causes shingles can be transmitted through open sores, but it will cause chickenpox rather than shingles. Shingles itself is not contagious, but the virus can be passed on and cause another illness. It’s essential to steer clear of children and pregnant women who have not been vaccinated against chickenpox to avoid infecting them.


Read: What is Shingles?


Can I Get A Shingles Vaccine?

Two vaccines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent shingles.

  • Zostavax is a single dose live vaccine which works for about five years.
  • Shingrix requires two doses and is made from a nonliving virus component. It may work for more than five years.

Related: Getting Vaccinated for Shingles


What Are Common Shingles Treatments?

While there is no cure for shingles, there are antiviral medications available that can reduce the risk of complications and speed up the healing process, including:

Other treatments to reduce the symptoms of shingles include:

  • Cool, wet compresses
  • Cool baths
  • Reducing stress
  • Capsaicin topical patch (Qutenza)
  • Anticonvulsants like gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline
  • Numbing agents like lidocaine, delivered via a cream, gel, spray, or skin patch
  • Medications that contain narcotics like codeine
  • An injection including corticosteroids and local anesthetics
  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Get Shingles Treatment Online

Think you may be suffering from shingles? Book an appointment with a PlushCare physician to get diagnosed and get a prescription today. Delaying treatment may be detrimental to your health and only worsens symptoms that you can quickly resolve with proper treatment. 


Read More About Shingles


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (Herpes Zoster). Clinical Overview. Accessed on March 26, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/hcp/clinical-overview.html

Mayo Clinic. Shingles. Diagnosis and Treatment. Accessed on March 26, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353060

Mayo Clinic. Valacyclovir (Oral Route). Accessed on March 26, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/valacyclovir-oral-route/proper-use/drg-20066635

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institute on Aging. Shingles. Accessed on March 26, 2021 at  https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/shingles 

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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