Tell-tale signs your rash is shingles and how often you can catch the virus

Shingles is a painful condition causing red blister-like bumps on the body.

It's caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is similar to chickenpox.

A shingles rash of blisters typically scabs over in seven to 10 days, fully clearing up in two to four weeks – but can you get it again and how can you be sure it is shingles rather than something else?

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According to health experts, chickenpox rarely infects more than once, but a shingle infection unfortunately can cause a reinfection.

“Although it's uncommon, you can get shingles multiple times,” says Harvard Health.

“The virus sticks around in your body after chickenpox symptoms go away, lying dormant in your nerves, held in check by your immune system.”

Factors that may attribute to a shingles reinfection includes stress, certain medications and other health conditions.

Recurring shingles infections is also more common among people suffering with a compromised immune system and those aged over 50.

Symptoms of shingles

The hallmark warning includes a rash that pops up on the skin after symptoms occur.

Some other accompanying signs warning of the infection include:

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache.

“The shingles rash looks like red, blister-like bumps,” added physician Dr David Cutler.

“People describe them as looking like teardrops on a rose petal, and these appear on the path of the nerve that the virus is traveling on.”

Weirdly, if a person does get another shingles infection it often recurs on another side of the body.

For example, if you had rashes appear on the left side of your body, it could come back but this time appearing on your right side.

“The reason for this is that once you’ve had chickenpox, the virus remains alive in your nerves,” explained Dr Nidhi Ghildayal from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“When the virus reactivates, the infected nerves become inflamed.”

How to lower your risk of shingles

Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop shingles, but getting vaccinated against the pox is said to help lower a person’s risk of shingles.

“If you have shingles, you're contagious until the last blister has dried and scabbed over,” adds the NHS.

“To help prevent the virus being passed on, avoid sharing towels or flannels, swimming or playing contact sports.

“You should also avoid work or school if your rash is weeping (oozing fluid) and can't be covered.”


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