Are Shingles Contagious? What You Need To Know

November 12, 2012

Are Shingles Contagious? What You Need To Know

Timing is everything in life, so they say. Well when the question is, “Is shingles contagious?” then that really is the answer. If you meet someone with shingles when they are at the stage where their blisters are moist or wet then you may be infected with chicken pox or shingles. So perhaps the question should be,”when are your shingles contagious?”. If the spots are dry and crusty then the shingles are no longer contagious and you can mingle with people again.

Because the majority of children have had chicken pox at some time in their childhood it means that they become immune to shingles in adulthood. So for these people the answer to the question, “is shingles contagious?” is no, it is not contagious. However if you are one of the small percentage of adults who never had chicken pox as a child then when asked is shingles contagious, then the answer must be yes. Except that a shingles sufferer cannot pass their shingles to another adult, they actually pass chicken pox,

However even for the smaller group of adults who have never had chicken pox the answer is only a limited, yes. This is because if the blisters are dry and crusty, or are adequately covered to stop the moisture seeping out then these people can be considered as safe too. This is because the virus can only be transmitted by direct contact with the moist areas on or around the blisters. Covering the spots allows a person who feels well enough to return to work or carry on with their everyday activities at an earlier stage.

After saying all of the above it is very difficult (almost impossible) to catch shingles from another shingles sufferer. However what happens is that the shingles sufferer starts a reaction in the other person’s body which seems to activate a previous virus such as chicken pox.

Most of the time the question, “is shingles contagious?” is not very important because it is only an illness which is not very serious. However if a pregnant woman catches shingles then complications can occur. People with compromised immune systems should also avoid any known shingles sufferers.

If you have to be around someone who is suffering from shingles there are a few precautions to take to minimize the risk of others catching it. Never share any towels or other washing items such as sponges or facecloths, do not take part in any sports or activities involving direct contact. This can mean football, martial arts or even sexual relations, and never go swimming in a public pool if you have shingles.

Sometimes avoiding others when you have shingles is impossible. Perhaps you are a nursing mum or having to look after your small children. Well there is good news here. It seems that because the baby or babies shared your antibodies whilst you were pregnant they are protected from catching any virus from you.

If you think that you may have shingles then the symptoms to look out for include a high temperature, 38°C or higher, a feeling of pins and needles in the affected areas, muscle aches and pains and a general feeling of being under the weather. You can feel this way for up to 5 days before any visible signs appear. If spots or blisters appear then this confirms your fears and the shingles outbreak can last from over a week to almost a month, depending on the severity. Normally the stomach is the area to have the most spots and blisters but anywhere on the upper torso can be affected.

If you have a suspicion that you do have shingles always warn the surgery when you call, they may prefer the doctor to make a home visit depending on the stage of the condition.

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