ShinglesShingles Signs and Symptoms

Let’s Talk About Shingles Signs and Symptoms

This condition features a painful skin rash that can result in serious complications. But what if you could spot the virus coming, before the first red bump even appeared?

    Our Pro PanelShingles Symptoms

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts on shingles to bring you the most up-to-date information possible:

    Daniel Allen, M.D.

    Daniel Allan, M.D.Section Head of Family Medicine

    Cleveland Clinic Avon Lake Family Health Center
    Avon Lake, OH
    Peter O’Neill, M.D.

    Peter O’Neill, M.D.Chief of Dermatology and Clinical Assistant Professor

    NYU Winthrop Hospital and NYU Long Island School of Medicine
    Mineola, NY
    William Schaffner, M.D.

    William Schaffner, M.D.Medical Director and Professor of Medicine

    National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
    Nashville, TN

    Frequently Asked QuestionsShingles Symptoms

    What does the shingles rash look like?

    At first you might think you have poison ivy or provided dinner to a pack of ravenous mosquitoes. The difference is that these small, red bumps usually present in the shape of a thick stripe—like a shingle on a house—only on one side of the body, frequently the torso. After a few days, the bumps fill with fluid like blisters and begin to ooze or weep.

    Can young people get shingles?

    Yes, shingles can occur in childhood and in younger adults, but it’s uncommon. Usually when shingles occurs in an adult younger than 50, it’s because the person is immune-compromised. Pediatric shingles is rare, but more likely to occur in a child who had chickenpox before age 1, or if the child’s mother had chickenpox late in pregnancy.

    Is shingles contagious?

    Not in the usual ways. The virus isn’t airborne so you can’t get it just from being around someone. You’d have to actually touch the fluid in the blisters to contract the virus, but even then you’d get chickenpox. The first exposure always results in chickenpox, whereas the second activation always causes shingles. Add the fact in that most people today are already immune to chickenpox because they either had it themselves as a child or had the vaccine, and the chances of someone with shingles spreading the virus are very low.

    What’s the best way to prevent shingles?

    There’s a vaccine for that! Shingrix has been found to be more than 90% effective for people 50 and older. It requires two doses given between two and six months apart. Although it’s possible you might still get shingles after having the vaccine, the case will be much less severe. An earlier vaccine, Zostavax, is no longer widely available but may be an option for people allergic to Shingrix. Ask your doc for details.

    Stephanie Wood

    Stephanie Wood

    Stephanie Wood is a award-winning freelance writer and former magazine editor specializing in health, nutrition, wellness, and parenting.