The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes shingles, a painful rash that can occur anywhere on the body but usually develops on one side of the torso. Covering a shingles rash is key to preventing the virus from spreading.
When someone has chickenpox and recovers, the virus remains dormant in the body. Later, it can reactivate and cause shingles. This occurs in about
Shingles usually appear as a patch of blisters on one side of the torso, between the neck and pelvis. However, the rash can appear on other parts of the body. The blisters usually weep, crust over, and clear in 7–10 days, while the rash clears completely in 2–4 weeks. However, some people can develop postherpetic neuralgia, causing pain that can last for months.
Preventing the transmission of shingles is important. Direct contact with fluid from the rash can
Shingles spreads through
Shingles cannot spread before the rash is present or after the rash forms a crust. The risk of spreading shingles reduces greatly after covering the rash.
A caregiver who handles clothing or rash bandages that were in contact with the rash may have exposure to VZV.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), people need to care for their shingles rash daily. They must also cover it to prevent spreading shingles to others. To cover a rash, people can follow these steps:
- Wash the rash with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser.
- Pat the rash dry and avoid rubbing it. Be sure to keep towels separate from other people’s towels and clothing.
- Apply a thin layer of clean, pure petroleum jelly to the rash area.
- Cover the rash with a fresh, sterile, nonstick bandage.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water.
Covering a shingles rash is key to preventing transmission of ZVZ. To prevent the spread of the virus, people can also avoid:
- sharing clothing, towels, or personal hygiene products
- letting other people touch gauze or bandages that have covered the rash without wearing gloves or thoroughly washing their hands afterward
- scratching the rash to prevent the blisters from weeping fluid and transferring the virus to the hands
People typically receive Shingrix in two doses 2–6 months apart, though individuals may receive a second dose sooner if they have immune system issues. Those with shingles should also get the vaccine once the rash has resolved completely to prevent future reoccurrence.
If an individual is caring for someone with shingles, the best way to avoid getting shingles is to not touch the rash or any items that come in contact with it.
They need to use gloves where possible and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling any garments, wound dressings, towels, or bedsheets that touch the rash.
Shingles appears as a rash on the skin’s surface, but it can
Some potential ways to relieve a shingle rash include:
- wearing loose-fitting, lightweight, natural-fiber clothing
- applying calamine lotion to the rash area
- taking an oatmeal bath
- placing a cool, clean, damp washcloth over the rash several times per day for 5–10 minutes
It can take several weeks for a shingles rash to clear up. Practicing self-care may help people feel better.
- Participate in enjoyable activities that refocus the mind from itching or pain. This could include reading, watching movies or TV, spending time with friends, music, gardening, or gaming.
- Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Do some gentle exercise such as yoga or walking.
- Try to reduce stress, which can worsen the pain.
- Find help and support from family or friends.
The AAD recommends contacting a doctor within the first 3 days of the rash appearing. A doctor can prescribe antiviral medications that may lessen symptoms, shorten their duration, and reduce the risk of complications.
Some people can develop other health problems following shingles. People need to contact a doctor if they:
- have signs of other infection, such as swelling or pus, or the rash is not clearing
- experience ongoing pain after the rash clears
- feel unwell after the rash has cleared
For most people, shingles clears in 7–10 days, and the rash clears completely in 2–4 weeks.
Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a fairly common complication of shingles, and
VZV, the same virus that causes chickenpox, causes shingles. When a person gets chickenpox and recovers, the virus lies dormant in their body. Later in life, it may reactivate and cause shingles.
The virus spreads through the fluid that seeps from the rash’s blisters. Covering the shingles rash with a sterile, clean gauze or bandage reduces the risk of a person transmitting the virus to others.
Anyone who has shingles or is in close contact with someone who has it needs to wash their hands frequently and avoid sharing towels, bedsheets, and personal hygiene products.