Te mate io kirikiri Shingles

Shingles is a painful blistering rash. Anyone who had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles. The best protection against shingles is immunisation.

How you get shingles

If you have had chickenpox, the virus stays in your body. It moves to the roots of your nerve cells near the spinal cord and becomes inactive. If it becomes active later in life and causes symptoms, this is shingles.

The risk of getting shingles increases as you get older or if you have a weakened immune system.

Chickenpox (internal link)

Symptoms of shingles

Shingles is a painful rash that usually develops on 1 side of the face, body or head. The rash is made up of small blisters that typically scab over after 7 to 10 days.

The rash is usually in a stripe on the left or the right side of the body. Sometimes people with weakened immune systems have a rash that spreads across more areas of the body.

Before the rash develops, people often have pain, itching or tingling in the area where the rash will be.

Although shingles can be anywhere on your body, it is usually:

  • around the back
  • above the belly button (the upper abdomen)
  • on the face.

Other symptoms of shingles can include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • chills
  • upset stomach.

The pain or irritation from shingles usually goes away in 3 to 5 weeks.

It is important to get early treatment within the first few days of the rash appearing.

Complications of shingles

If the virus damages a nerve, you may have pain, numbness or tingling for months or years after the rash heals. This is most likely in people over age 50.

If you get shingles on your head or scalp, you may get headaches or weakness on 1 side of your face that makes it look droopy. This usually goes away, but it may take many months — especially if you have had a lot of weakness in your face muscles.

Some people also develop serious painful eye or ear inflammations and infections.

Shingles can cause facial scarring or loss of vision.

Diagnosing shingles

Visit your healthcare provider as soon as you notice a rash if you think you have shingles. They will be able to diagnose you based on your symptoms.

If you have shingles

If you have shingles, you should:

  • cover the rash
  • avoid touching or scratching the rash
  • wash your hands regularly to prevent the spread of the virus.

If you have never had chickenpox or received the vaccine, you can catch chickenpox if you are in close contact with someone who has shingles.

You should also avoid contact with the following high-risk groups until the rash has developed crusts:

  • pregnant people who have not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine
  • premature or low birth weight pēpi
  • people with weakened immune systems, such as people taking medication that lowers their immune system, people having chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients and people with HIV infection.

Treating shingles

Treatment works best if you start it early. Go to your healthcare provider as soon as you see the rash.

They may give you antiviral medicine to help you get better faster. It lowers the chance that the pain will last for a long time.

Your healthcare provider may also give you medicine for pain relief.

See them again if:

  • you get any blisters on your face
  • your fever or pain gets worse
  • your neck gets stiff
  • you cannot hear properly
  • you feel less able to think clearly
  • you develop new symptoms such as drooping or weakness to 1 side of your face
  • the blisters show signs of infection — for example, they become more sore or red, or if you see milky yellow drainage from the blister sites.

If you are not sure what you should do call Healthline 0800 611 116 

Self care for shingles

While you get better, there are some things you can do to help manage your symptoms.

  • Take a painkiller such as paracetamol.
  • Take any medicine your doctor prescribes.
  • Put cool, moist washcloths on the rash — wash any used washcloths.
  • Rest in bed during the early stages if you have fever and other symptoms.
  • Wear loose clothing to reduce friction or rubbing of the blisters.

Preventing shingles

The best protection against shingles is vaccination.

The shingles vaccine used in New Zealand is called Shingrix. You need 2 doses, with the second dose given 2 to 6 months after the first.

Find out about the shingles vaccine, who needs it and when to get it.

Shingles vaccine (internal link)