Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles. After the chickenpox clears, the virus stays in the body. When the chickenpox virus reactivates, or wakes up, the result is shingles, a painful, blistering rash. Shingles begin with pain, tingling, or extreme sensitivity in one area of the skin, usually on one side of the body. The most common location for shingles to appear is on the trunk or buttocks although it can also be found on legs, face or arms. After a few days, a rash will appear and will turn into blisters which resemble chicken pox. You may also experience headache, fever and neuralgia. Even after the blisters crust and disappear, pain, sometimes severe, may continue for several weeks or even months.
Are Shingles Contagious?
A person with a shingles rash can pass the virus to someone, usually a child, who has never had chickenpox. If the person does become infected by the shingles virus they will develop chickenpox instead. To become infected with the shingles virus, the person must come into direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash during the blistering phase. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious. Merely being in the same room with a shingles patient will not cause the person to catch chickenpox because during a shingles infection the virus is not normally in the lungs and therefore can’t be spread through the air.
Treatment of shingles infections usually includes an oral anti-viral prescription medication with or without cortisone, topical medications, and pain treatment when necessary.
- Oral Anti-Viral Prescription Medication - An anti-viral medicine can make shingles symptoms milder and shorter. The medicine may even prevent long-lasting nerve pain. Anti-viral medicine is most effective when started within 3 days of seeing the rash.