- Herpes zoster outbreaks, also known as “shingles,” are painful and long-lasting rashes that result from reactivation of the chickenpox virus (varicella zoster) in your body.
- Shingles affects nearly 1 in 3 adults in their lifetime, making it important to stay protected with the shingles vaccine.
- The Shingrix vaccine is effective at preventing shingles outbreaks in adults.
- You can schedule your Shingrix vaccine two weeks after your COVID-19 vaccine.
Ready to protect yourself from both shingles and COVID-19? Check out the tips for prevention below.
What Is “Shingles?”
Shingles, otherwise known as herpes zoster, is common, affecting about 1 in 3 people within their lifetime. They were previously believed to only affect older adults, but shingles outbreaks have recently been reported by younger adults with increasing frequency. If you’ve had one shingles outbreak, you are also at risk for additional outbreaks later in life.
Anyone who has had chickenpox in their lifetime is at risk for a shingles outbreak. Shingles outbreaks result from a reactivation of the chicken pox virus (varicella zoster) in the body. It is characterized by a painful rash that tends to develop along one side of the body, often on the torso or face.
What the Symptoms of Shingles?
The shingles rash consists of blisters that scab over in 7 to 10 days. This rash typically clears within 2 to 4 weeks, but the nerve pain can last for several weeks or months after the rash has fully cleared. The nerve pain is referred to as postherpetic neuralgia and is a commonly reported complication of the virus. Postherpetic neuralgia can be incredibly painful.
Additional shingles symptoms may include:
- Upset stomach
Shingles may also lead to other health complications, including:
- Chronic pain
- Ear inflammation
- Eye complications
- Retinal inflammation
- Skin infection
How Contagious Are Shingles?
Fortunately, shingles can only affect those who have previously had chickenpox. However, when you have a shingles outbreak, you are at risk for transmitting the chickenpox virus (varicella zoster) to other people. If you have a shingles rash, you should avoid coming into direct contact with anyone who has not previously had or been vaccinated for chickenpox.
Bottom line: You cannot transmit shingles to another person, but you can transmit the varicella zoster virus to those who have not been immunized for it.
Can I Prevent Shingles?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all healthy adults, aged 50 or older, get vaccinated for shingles. There are currently two vaccines approved in the United States to prevent shingles and related complications. Most insurers will cover the shingles vaccine for older adults.
The two vaccines approved to prevent shingles are the zoster live vaccine (ZVL, Zostavax) and the recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix). Although the zoster live vaccine has been used in the United States since 2006, the CDC now recommends the newer recombinant zoster vaccine as the first line of defense against shingles.
The CDC encourages those at-risk for shingles to get the Shingrix vaccine, regardless of whether or not they:
- Remember having had chickenpox
- Have had shingles in the past
- Received Zostavax in the past
Can I Get My Shingles Vaccine with the COVID-19 Vaccine?
It’s important for older adults to get both their shingles and COVID-19 vaccines. However, these vaccines must be spaced at least two weeks apart. This means you can schedule your shingles vaccine for two weeks after your COVID-19 vaccine appointment.
Shingles outbreaks are painful, are often accompanied by complications, and can last for months. This makes it important for older adults to get vaccinated as early as possible to prevent painful shingles outbreaks and related complications. However, COVID-19 can be deadly, especially for older adults, making it essential to schedule the COVID vaccine first if you have not already had it.
How Can I Manage Shingles Outbreaks?
If you have experienced shingles in the past, you can still get vaccinated to prevent future outbreaks. And if you’re currently struggling with a shingles outbreak, you can manage symptoms with antiviral medications, such as Valtrex, acyclovir, and valacyclovir. These medications can prevent the virus from replicating, shorten the time it takes for the shingles rash to heal, and also reduce the intensity of your outbreak.
eDrugstore Has Your Back
Antiviral medications require a prescription. Fortunately, these medications are more accessible than ever thanks to our services at eDrugstore.com. Arrange a free medical consultation for a prescription and select the treatment that is right for you by calling 1-800-467-5146 today.
Shelby is a public health professional with research and field experience in sexual and reproductive health. She holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).