What You Need to Know About Shingles

Know what you’re up against. Knowing what causes, behaviours and treatments for the virus can help you stay healthy.

  • What causes shingles?

    Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, also known as the varicella zoster virus. After a person has chickenpox, the virus stays in their body and becomes inactive. Years later, the virus can reactivate, causing shingles (also known as herpes zoster).1-2

    Scientists don’t know exactly what causes the virus to reactivate, but there may be multiple factors. As a person ages, their immune system begins to weaken and is less likely to prevent the virus from reactivating. That’s why your risk of shingles increases with age. Generally, people only develop shingles once, although it is possible to get shingles more than once. People with weakened immune systems are also more likely to get shingles.1-2, 10

  • How long does the shingles rash last?

    Shingles typically produces a painful rash that often blisters, and scabs over in 10 to 15 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks. It usually appears on one side of the body or face. 48–72 hours before the rash appears, people may experience pain, itching, tingling, or numbness in the area where the rash will develop.4-5

  • What is herpes zoster opthalmicus?

    Herpes zoster opthalmicus is a shingles infection that affects the eye and the ocular area. Symptoms include forehead rash and painful inflammation of all the tissues.6,13

  • What Is the Connection Between Chickenpox & Shingles?

    Chickenpox is a very contagious disease that causes a blister-like rash typically all over the body, itching, and fever. The chickenpox virus can reactivate, causing shingles. People with shingles may have pain, itching, tingling, and blisters in one area of the body that can last for weeks.4,11,14

  • Does Stress Increase My Risk of Shingles?

    Stress may increase your risk of shingles, however age is the most important risk factor for developing shingles, as most cases of shingles occur in adults 50 years and older.1-2,7

    Speak to your doctor about prevention options against shingles.

  • Is Shingles Contagious?

    Shingles occurs when the virus that’s already in your body reactivates, so it cannot be passed from one person to another. However, since the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles are the same, if a person who has never had or isn’t protected against chickenpox comes into direct contact with the blisters of someone with shingles, they may get chickenpox.1,7

  • Why am I at a higher risk after age 50?

    A person’s risk of developing shingles increases with age. This is because the immune system naturally weakens over time as you age, which can allow the usually inactive virus to reactivate, despite how healthy you may feel. Anyone who has had chickenpox already has the virus that can cause shingles.1-2

    Some people may have had chickenpox without knowing or don't remember if they have, these people may also already have the virus.1-2

    Older adults are also at increased risk of having complications such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).4

  • Am I still at risk if I haven’t had chickenpox?

    If you’ve never had chickenpox, you can’t develop shingles. However, you may have been exposed to the virus without knowing, or you may not remember, which means you may be at risk of developing shingles.7

Prevention and Treatment

Treatment can lessen the severity and the duration of infection. Vaccination is the best option for prevention. 1

  • What are the best ways to help prevent shingles?

    Vaccination can help prevent shingles. If you’re 50 years of age or older, talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about shingles prevention.1

  • How does vaccination help to prevent shingles?

    Vaccination boosts your body’s immune system against shingles. 12

    As a result, your body is better able to fight off the virus and keep it from reactivating.

    Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the virus that remains in your body for life after you have had chickenpox. If you haven’t had chickenpox, avoiding contact with active chickenpox and shingles cases, hand hygiene and cough hygiene may reduce your risk of developing chickenpox.1,8

  • How do I treat or manage shingles?

    Treatment may reduce the severity and duration of illness and depending on your symptoms may include weakening the virus and/or pain relief.1,7

    If you think you may have shingles, please speak with your healthcare professional as soon as possible. They may prescribe appropriate medicines to help reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms.

    General advice for managing symptoms:

    • Keep the rash clean and dry to reduce the risk of infection
    • Wear loose-fitting clothing
    • Use a cool compress a few times a day 7

Shingles Prevention Options

Download our shingles discussion guide and speak to your healthcare professional about how you can prevent yourself against shingles.


Don’t wait, contact your doctor as soon as possible if you think you have a case of shingles. Your doctor will also be able to advise you on how to manage any symptoms you may be experiencing.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Shingles Symptoms and Causes, January 2019. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/symptoms-causes/syc-20353054?p=1, Accessed July 2022.
  2. Bollaerts, et. al. Epidemiology and Infection, October 2017. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMCS647669/, Accessed July 2022.
  3. Healthline. What Does Shingles Look Like?, June 2021. Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/shingles-pictures, Accessed July 2022.
  4. Zoster vaccine for Australian adults. National Center for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) Fact Sheet, June 2021. Available at https://ncirs.org.au/ncirs-fact-sheets-faqs/zoster-vaccine-australian-adults, Accessed July 2022.
  5. American Academy of Dermatology. SHINGLES: TIPS FOR MANAGING, April 2019. Available at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/shingles-self-care, Accessed July 2022.
  6. Kedar S, Jayagopal LN, Berger JR. Neurological and Opthalmological Manifestations of Varicella Zoster Virus. J Neuroophthalmol. June 2019. Available at Journal of Neuro-Opthalmology, pages 220-231, Accessed July 2022.
  7. NHS, Shingles, February 2018. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/shingles/. Accessed July 2022.
  8. Healthline. Chickenpox Prevention: How to Avoid the Varicella-Zoster Virus, February 2019. Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/chicken-pox-prevention, Accessed July 2022.
  9. DH Green Book Ch 289. Shingles, April 2021. Available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/503773/2905109_Green_Book_Chapter_28a_v3_0W.PDF, Accessed July 2022.
  10. Medical News Today. Can a person get shingles more than once?, May 2021. Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/recurrent-shingles, Accessed July 2022.
  11. Mayo Clinic. Chickenpox, May 2021. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chickenpox/symptoms-causes/syc-20351282, Accessed July 2022.
  12. CDC. Shingles Vaccination, February 2018. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/shingrix/index.html, Accessed July 2022.
  13. AAFP. Evaluation and Management of Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus, November 2002. Available at https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2002/1101/p1723.html, Accessed August 2022.
  14. Herpes Zoster: Postherpetic Neuralgia and Other Complications; Drolet M, October 2017, Chapter11, pages 119-140. Accessed August 2022.