For many adults, getting chickenpox was an unavoidable part of childhood. But if you’ve had chickenpox, you also have a 1 in 3 chance of developing shingles. That’s because the virus that causes chickenpox never leaves your body completely. Rather, it lies dormant and can reemerge later as shingles.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to protect yourself from getting shingles. Here’s what you need to know:
What is shingles? Shingles is a painful skin rash with blisters that can lead to long-term nerve pain. It can also cause fever, headache, chills, and upset stomach. The blisters typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and fully clear up within 2 to 4 weeks.
Is shingles serious? In some cases, shingles may have serious complications. The most common is long-term nerve pain. If the rash occurs on the face, shingles could affect the eye and cause vision loss.
What causes shingles? Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you have had chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in your body and if/when re-activated will cause shingles.
The exact reason why the virus reactivates and causes shingles is unclear. But it may be due to lowered immunity to infections as you grow older.
Can I get shingles more than once? While most people have only one episode of shingles in their lifetime, it is possible to have multiple episodes. The exact reason for this is unknown.
Is shingles contagious? Here are three facts about how the virus spreads.
- You cannot spread shingles to another person.
- If you have shingles, you can give chickenpox to a baby, child, or adult who has not received a chickenpox vaccine or has never had chickenpox.
- You cannot get shingles from someone with chickenpox.
Can shingles be treated? Yes. There are several antiviral medicines available to treat shingles. They are most effective when taken as soon as possible after the rash appears. If you think you have shingles, contact your health care provider.
If I never had chickenpox, can I get shingles? No. However, if you never had chickenpox and you never received the chickenpox vaccine, you may be at risk for developing chickenpox.
How can I protect myself from shingles? There are two shingles vaccines available in the United States and recommended for adults. Zoster vaccine live (ZVL, Zostavax) has been used since 2006, and recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix) has been used since 2017, and is recommended as the preferred shingles vaccine. Here’s what everyone should know about shingles vaccines.
If you are over 50 and had chickenpox, ask your doctor when you should get the shingles vaccine.