Shingles is a painful condition that often causes a rash. The varicella -zoster virus, the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), also causes shingles. People with chickenpox contract the VZV virus, which then remains dormant in the body.
About a third of people who get chickenpox will contract the virus again as adults. The second time, however, it does not cause chickenpox, but shingles.
If you have shingles, you can pass the virus and infect chickenpox to someone who has never been sick. It won't directly infect them with shingles, but if they do get chickenpox, they are at risk for shingles later in life.
How do you get the varicella-zoster virus?
Shingles are not contagious. Someone's shingles is not contagious. However, a person with shingles can pass VZV to people who have never had chickenpox.
VZV can be spread from a person with shingles to someone who has never had chickenpox through direct contact with shingles fluid or blisters. You cannot walk on the VZV until the blisters appear on the shingles or after the lesions are scabbed over.
However, shingles is much less contagious than chickenpox. By hiding the rash, you can prevent the spread of the virus.
Shingles usually appear many years after getting chickenpox. The first sign of infection is a one-sided rash on the face or body. The rash and blisters will crust over within 10 days. This will clear up completely in a few weeks.
Is shingles spread through the air?
While chickenpox is spread by airborne droplets, the shingles virus can only be spread by contact with fluid from a rash or blisters if a person with shingles has a localized rash and an immune system. For these people, airborne transmission is not a problem.
However, airborne transmission is possible in immunosuppressed or disseminated shingles with lesions outside the primary area.
How is shingles spread?
People infected with VZV develop chickenpox. Then the virus remains inactive. In some people, it reactivates in adulthood, causing a painful condition called shingles.
Not everyone who gets chickenpox will develop shingles in the future. In rare cases, shingles can occur multiple times in a person's life.
Some people are more likely to get shingles after chickenpox, including:
- People with weakened immune systems due to health problems.
- People taking immunosuppressants
Women are at higher risk of developing shingles than men. Also, blacks are less likely to get shingles than whites. Older adults are more likely to develop complications from shingles than other age groups.
If you have never had chickenpox or have never had the chickenpox vaccine, you are at risk for VZV.
How Caregivers Can Protect themselves
Caregivers of people with shingles can take the following steps to protect themselves from the virus:
- Cover rashes and blisters to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Frequent hand washing
- Frequent laundry
- Dispose of used bandages promptly
How to prevent the spread of shingles
The most effective way to prevent the spread of VZV in people with shingles is to:
- Cover the rash
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid scratching
Also, you should avoid contact with vulnerable people if you develop shingles. Until the rash begins to heal and crust over, you should avoid people at increased risk for VZV complications, including people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women.
A person with shingles is contagious until the rash forms a scab over.
Can I work with shingles?
You can go to work if you have shingles and it is no longer contagious. However, you may need to wait until you feel better. Shingles can be excruciating and debilitating.
It is no longer contagious when the rash and blisters begin to crust over. This usually happens 10 days after the first appearance of the rash.
Two vaccines can help prevent shingles.
The chickenpox vaccine reduces the chances of developing shingles. But you can still get chickenpox despite being vaccinated, which means you can get shingles later in life, too.
The current shingles vaccine , Shingrix, is recommended for adults age 50 and older. A person can get the shingles vaccine even if they have already had an episode of shingles.
People can also get the Shingrix vaccine if they are not sure they had chickenpox as children. Shingrix is a two-dose vaccine. To get the maximum benefit, a person needs to receive a second dose within at least six months after the first.
Do not receive the Shingrix vaccine if:
- Allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.
- You have shingles or a fever.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
Also avoid the vaccine if you have a weakened immune system. When in doubt, talk to your healthcare provider to see if it makes sense to give you the shingles vaccine.
Get the word of drug information
Shingles is a painful condition that can be prevented. If you've never had chickenpox, you don't need to worry about developing singles, but you can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles. Getting vaccinated against chickenpox or shingles can help prevent infection and possible complications.
Why defend yourself? Shingles often appear later in life. Although you may now feel in great shape, you may have to deal with a medical condition in a few years that increases your risk of complications from shingles.
For some people, shingles can cause long-term effects, such as nerve damage. Fortunately, there are effective vaccines that can help prevent chickenpox and shingles. Do you want to know more about vaccines? Talk to your doctor to see if it is right for you.