Shingles is an infection that causes an uncomfortable and often painful rash. The rash appears in blotches on the skin of one side of the body, often the chest and stomach area, however, it’s also possible for the rash to appear on the face, eyes, and genitals.

person's back covered in shingles

What are the signs of shingles?

The first signs of shingles can be a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin, a headache or feeling generally unwell with a rash appearing a few days later. Taking medication within 3 days of the start of symptoms may help speed up the recovery.

How to treat shingles

Shingles can be treated by taking paracetamol to ease the pain, keeping the rash clean and dry, and by wearing loose-fitting clothing. Do not let dressings or plasters stick to the rash or use antibiotic cream.

It can take up to 4 weeks for the shingles rash to heal and even after it’s gone, the skin can feel painful but it usually get better over time.

What causes shingles?

Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus so, even though you cannot spread it, people who have not had chickenpox are likely to catch it if exposed to a person with shingles. People with shingles should try to avoid people with weakened immune systems, people who are pregnant and have not had chickenpox and babies less than a month old.

A shingles vaccine is available on the NHS for people in their 70s, which helps reduce the risk of getting shingles. Speak to your GP for more information.

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