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Shingles

Check if you have shingles

The first sign of shingles can be:

  • a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin
  • headache or feeling generally unwell

A rash will appear a few days later.

Usually you get shingles on your chest and tummy, but it can appear on your face, eyes and genitals.

What it looks like

shingles rash
The shingles rash appears as red blotches on your skin, on one side of your body only. A rash on both the left and right of your body is unlikely to be shingles.
itchy blisters
The blotches become itchy blisters which ooze fluid. A few days later the blisters dry out and scab.
rash forming a band
The rash can form a band that only appears on one side of your body. The skin remains panful until after the rash has gone.

Speak to your GP as soon as you suspect shingles

There is medicine your GP can prescribe to speed up your recovery.

How to treat shingles at home

You can buy painkillers to ease shingles pain.

It can take up to 4 weeks for the rash to heal. Pain can stay for weeks after the rash has gone, but it usually settles in time.

Do

  • keep the rash clean and dry to reduce risk of infection
  • wear loose-fitting clothing
  • buy calamine lotion to ease itching
  • use a cool compress (a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel or a wet cloth) a few times a day

Don’t

  • let dressings or plasters stick to the rash
  • use antibiotic cream — this slows healing

Stay away from certain groups of people if you have shingles

Try to avoid:

  • pregnant women who have not had chickenpox before
  • people with a weakened immune system, such as someone with HIV or AIDS
  • babies less than one month old (unless it is your own baby, as they should be protected from the virus by your immune system)

Stay off work or school until the rash scabs

Shingles is contagious only while the rash oozes fluid.

Shingles and pregnancy

If you’re pregnant and get shingles, there is no danger to your pregnancy or baby.

If your GP thinks you need medicine, they may speak to a specialist to decide whether the benefits of medication outweigh any possible risk.

You can’t get shingles from chickenpox

You can’t get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox.

However, you can get chickenpox from someone with shingles, if you haven’t had chickenpox before.