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Are Shingles Contagious? Here's Everything You Should Know

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Honey Buenaventura · Updated Feb 16, 2023

Are Shingles Contagious? Here's Everything You Should Know

Shingles or herpes zoster causes a painful skin rash or outbreak of blisters. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus responsible for chickenpox. This often appears as a band of blisters that wrap around an area of the body, like your torso. Read on to know more about the disease, including its symptoms, treatment, and are shingles contagious.

How do shingles develop?

Chickenpox usually occurs at a younger age. During this time, the body fights off the varicella-zoster virus. This disease may last up to 10 days. But, even if the physical signs of chickenpox fade, the virus may still live inside your body. The virus can reactivate when you reach adulthood, at aged 50 years and older when you have a weaker immune system. Once it does, it spreads along your sensory nerves, causing painful rashes or blisters.

Therefore if you have had chickenpox before, you are at risk of getting shingles as well. 

Are shingles contagious?

A person with active shingles can transmit the virus when the rash is still in its blister phase. Therefore it is important to cover up your blisters, and avoid physical contact with anyone who has not had chickenpox yet, has a weak immune system, pregnant women, and young children.

Are shingles contagious: Signs and symptoms

One of the first signs you should look out for is tingling, itching, or pain in one side of the body.

The most common areas in which shingles form include the chest, abdomen, arms, and legs. Afterward, you may notice the affected area becoming red and swollen. The rash will then appear and blisters may form a patch or single-stripe following the line of the infected nerve. Your skin will become more sensitive that any friction can cause extreme pain and itchiness.

Some also experience other symptoms besides rashes or blisters:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Extreme feeling of fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle weakness
  • Upset stomach
  • Bacterial infection

If you show physical signs of shingles, it is best to isolate yourself since shingles are contagious, especially if you have open blisters.

Are shingles contagious: Diagnosis

Shingles usually form in a single stripe in one portion of the body. Some doctors will also perform laboratory tests of the fluid from blisters.

One of the first things patients ask is: Are shingles contagious? Your doctor will recommend medications to help with the symptoms, and will advise you to avoid direct contact with other people as the condition progresses.


To this day, there is no exact cure for shingles. Getting vaccinated helps reduce the risk and severity of the disease. However, people with HIV, cancer, or anyone who is currently undergoing radiation treatments aren’t allowed to get a vaccine shot. It is recommended to be vaccinated before any treatment.

There are also over-the-counter medications that can be prescribed to help deal with the symptoms, such as pain relievers. It is always best to talk with your doctor about your condition.


Here are some complications you need to look out for:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia. Even when the rashes or blisters have cleared out, the pain lingers and may last for months or even years. This occurs when the infected nerve fibers send signals of pain from the skin to the brain.
  • Vision loss. Blisters can also appear near the eye area which causes inflammation or permanent eye damage.
  • Neurological problems. Shingles can also cause inflammation in the brain, hearing loss, and facial paralysis.
  • Bacterial infection. If open blisters aren’t covered and treated immediately, it can lead to infections.

Key takeaway

Shingles are very painful, but they’re not necessarily life-threatening. Depending on the infected nerve area, the blisters will eventually fall off after a couple of weeks. Once you’ve had shingles, it’s less likely that the infection will occur again. Getting vaccinated can help reduce your risk. If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms mentioned above, contact your doctor immediately. If you treat your shingles early on, you may prevent further complications.

Learn about Other Viral Infections here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Honey Buenaventura · Updated Feb 16, 2023

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