Shingles is an infection of a nerve that creates a painful rash across the infected area, and it is estimated that 1 in 4 people will contract shingles in their lifetime.
Shingles occurs in those who have previously experienced chicken pox. The virus remains dormant in the body and can be reactivated at a later point in life.
This reactivation usually occurs if the immune system has been lowered, for example from a virus or stress related symptom, it is most commonly found in the 50+ age group.
Although you can contract chicken pox from someone who is suffering from shingles, a common misconception is that it is possible to contract shingles directly from someone with the virus. This is incorrect, however chickenpox symptoms in adults can be more severe than in children, and may lead to further health complications. This is a possible reason why parents may be keen for their child to contract the virus at an early age.
The symptoms associated with shingles include sensitivity, tingling or a burning sensation on the skin, followed by fever, headache, a painful rash and blisters.
A shingles vaccine programme started in September 2013, with routine vaccinations available for those aged 70+, for those aged 50+ there are antivirals available that if administered early on, can prevent the virus multiplying and significantly reduce symptoms.
During the recovery period, your GP will advise you to keep the affected area covered with loose fitting clothing and wait until the blisters have dried up before returning to work, although the virus is not airbourne, it can be contracted via direct contact with the blisters. You should aim to keep the blisters as dry and clean as possible, try using a cool compress to achieve this, but do not share any cloths or towels during this time as it will encourage the virus to spread.
Pregnant women are advised to seek medical advice urgently if they are concerned they may have symptoms.