Skip to main content

What is shingles?

What is shingles?
Click to enlarge

Shingles is a painful skin condition that is vaccine preventable

Shingles causes painful blisters on the skin. It comes years after a chicken pox infection when the virus flares up at a time when the person’s immune system is weakened. It can leave scars and result in on-going pain at the rash site. If it develops on the face it can cause scarring or blindness.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

Shingles starts as a pain, itch or tingle before the rash of fluid-filled blisters develops. The rash usually only appears on one side of the body. Patients often feel generally unwell, too.

The pain of a shingles attack is bad enough that it can stop you going about your daily business. The shingles rash will take up to four weeks to heal and it can feel painful for weeks after it has gone.

How can I soothe the symptoms of shingles?

Ask your usual healthcare provider for support if you suspect shingles. You should see a doctor to confirm diagnosis and to get antiviral medication to help with the pain and other symptoms. These antiviral meds are most effective if you start using them within three days of the rash appearing.

You need to take care to avoid secondary infections of the shingles rash. Keep the rash clean and dry and wear loose clothing.

For more details, see the Government of Canada’s shingles page.

How do you get shingles?

Shingles is a flare-up of the varicella zoster virus. This is the virus that causes chickenpox. It stays in the body after you have chickenpox. Then years later, when you are run down because of stress or an illness, it flares up. You can’t get shingles from someone with chickenpox, or from someone with shingles.

Shingles is infectious to people who have not had chickenpox

You cannot give shingles to other people. But if you have shingles, you can give chickenpox to people who have not had it. When the rash is weeping fluid and cannot be covered, you can spread the virus.

You should particularly avoid these people who might be at risk from infection:

  • babies under one month (unless you are the mother, as your immune system will protect the baby)
  • people with weak immune systems
  • pregnant women who have not had chickenpox.

Am I immune to shingles?

Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles, but it is most common in people over 50 and those who have a weakened immune system. If you’ve had shingles, you can get it again, unfortunately. As you get older the attacks can occur more often and be more severe.

Can I get vaccinated against shingles?

The shingles vaccine makes you much less likely to get shingles. And if you do get an attack of shingles after being vaccinated, it is likely to be less severe. At Canadian Travel Clinics Toronto branch we can offer the shingles vaccine to some people. To find out if it is right for you, get in touch and ask.

How do I make an appointment for travel vaccinations in Calgary?

Canadian Travel Clinics can offer same-day vaccinations at our travel clinics in Calgary. Make an appointment online right now.