Shingles is an infection that causes a painful rash. You should see a GP if you think you have shingles.
Check if you have shingles
The first sign of shingles can be:
- a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin
- a 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.
Speak to a GP as soon as you suspect shingles
A GP can prescribe medicine to speed up your recovery.
How to treat shingles yourself
- use painkillers to ease shingles pain
- 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
- let dressings or plasters stick to the rash
- use antibiotic cream - this slows healing
How long shingles lasts
It can take up to 4 weeks for the rash to heal. The skin can be painful for weeks after the rash has gone, but it usually settles in time.
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 having chemotherapy
- 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.
When people get chickenpox, the virus remains in the body. It can be reactivated later and cause shingles if someone’s immune system is lowered. This can be because of stress, certain conditions or treatments like chemotherapy.
If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.