You should get advice from 111 as soon as possible if you think you have shingles
Shingles is an infection caused by the chickenpox virus, varicella-zoster.
But can you get shingles from chickenpox, what are the symptoms and how can it be treated?
Here’s what you need to know.
What are the symptoms?
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 then 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. However, it usually appears on just one side of your body only. A rash on both the left and right of your body is unlikely to be shingles.
The blotches become itchy blisters that ooze fluid, but a few days later the blisters dry out and scab.
How to treat shingles
You should get advice from 111 as soon as possible if you think you have shingles.
To treat the symptoms yourself you can take paracetamol to ease pain, keep the rash clean and dry to reduce the risk of infection, wear loose-fitting clothing and use a cool compress a few times a day.
It can take up to 4 weeks for the rash to heal and your skin can be painful for weeks after the rash has gone, but it usually gets better over time.
Can you get shingles from chickenpox?
According to the NHS, you cannot get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox, but you can get chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before.
When people get chickenpox, the virus remains in the body. It can then be reactivated later and cause shingles if someone’s immune system is lowered.
This can be because of stress, certain conditions, or treatments such as chemotherapy.
You cannot spread shingles to others, but as people who have not had chickenpox before could catch chickenpox from, you should try to avoid:
- pregnant people who have not had chickenpox before
- people with a weakened immune system
- babies less than one month old – unless you gave birth to them, as your baby should be protected from the virus by your immune system
You should also stay off work or school if the rash is still oozing fluid (weeping) and cannot be covered, or until the rash has dried out.
You can only spread the infection to other people while the rash oozes fluid.
Is there a vaccination?
A shingles vaccine is available on the NHS for people in their 70s and helps reduce the risk of getting shingles.
If you get shingles after being vaccinated, the symptoms can be much milder.
You can ask your GP surgery if you can get the vaccine on the NHS.