7 Myths of Shingles

Posted October 10, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 2 min read

When you have chickenpox, the virus that caused it sticks around, even after you get better. Later on, that virus can trigger another infection called shingles, which is known for a painful rash with blisters.

Myth: Only Older People Get Shingles


  • While the infection is more common in people over 50, anyone who’s had chickenpox can get it, even children.

  • Younger people are more likely to have it if their immune systems are weak because of certain medicines or illnesses like cancer or HIV.

Myth: Shingles Is Rare


  • About a third of all Americans will get it in their lifetimes.

  • That’s 1 million per year.

  • Half of people who reach age 85 will have had shingles at some point.

Myth: It’s Not Contagious


  • The open blisters of the rash can’t pass on shingles, but they can spread the chickenpox virus to someone who’s never had it.

  • And that can lead to a later shingles outbreak.

Myth: Chickenpox Is the Same Thing


  • They’re caused by the same virus, but shingles and chickenpox are not the same illness.

  • Chickenpox brings on hundreds of itchy blisters that heal in 5 to 7 days, usually in children.

  • A shingles rash can last about a month.

Myth: It’s Gone in a Few Days


  • About 40% of people who get shingles feel a burning, shooting pain for months or years after the rash is gone.

  • It’s called postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN.

  • Your doctor can help you manage it with medication and other treatment.

Myth: You Can’t Treat It


  • If you take an antiviral medicine (acyclovir, famciclovir, valacyclovir) in the first 3 days after the rash appears, that may ease the pain and help you get rid of it sooner.

  • The earlier you start, the better it works.

  • Prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers, corticosteroids, and nerve block treatments might also help.

Myth: You Can’t Get It More Than Once


  • It doesn’t happen often, but it’s possible.

  • New bouts usually show up on different parts of your body.

  • A shingles vaccine could lower your chances of a second infection, even if you get the shot after you’ve already had shingles.

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