HomeHealth6 Myths About Shingles: How to Manage the Symptoms

6 Myths About Shingles: How to Manage the Symptoms

Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the same virus as chickenpox—the varicella zoster virus (VZV). If you’ve had chickenpox then you can get shingles since the virus lies dormant in your body and can then reactivate, even decades later, as shingles. According to the CDC, shingles rates have been increasing in the United States for unknown reasons and 1 in 3 people will contract the disease at some point in their lifetime.

1. Myth: Only older people get Shingles

Fact: You could contract Shingles at any age if you already had chickenpox – even children can get it (although it is rare). People usually get shingles because their immune system is weakened so it can happen if a person experiences stress or other issues that decrease immunity. 

“Years ago, herpes zoster (shingles) occurred almost exclusively in older people but today it occurs in younger age individuals including people in their twenties and thirties,” Robin Evans, MD, dermatologist at Southern Connecticut Dermatology in Stamford, CT, said. “I have seen and have heard of numerous cases of shingles developing in younger individuals in their twenties during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unclear if the stress and the immune system impact has increased the frequency of shingles.”

2. Myth: The Shingles rash is only located on your torso. 

Fact: The Shingles rash is usually on one side of your body and can be on your torso, face or shoulder. It can be all over the body but that is rare.

3. Myth: Shingles is not contagious.

Fact: Shingles can be contagious if there are blisters. If you touch the rash and then touch another part of your body, you can spread the rash. You can also infect other people through contact with the shingles rash. If the rash is touched, wash hands immediately to prevent spreading it to other parts of my body or spreading it to other people.

4. Myth: You can only get shingles once. 

Fact: You can get shingles more than once, although it is rare. Most people only get shingles once. “The virus can reactivate after it goes away. However, receiving the shingles vaccine highly decreases the likelihood of being infected again,” Stacy Chimento, MD, a dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Florida, said, explaining that 1% to 6% of the people that got shingles will have a second episode, but it is more common in women and more common if you are immunocompromised.

5. Myth: You cannot get shingles if you got the shingles vaccine.

Fact: You can get shingles if you receive the shingles vaccine, although it is unlikely.

The shingles vaccine Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles.

6. Myth: Shingles is rare.

Fact: About 1 million people get Shingles every year in the United States.

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Should you seek treatment? 

A doctor can prescribe an anti-viral medication that can get rid of shingles within a few days.  

The Shingles Vaccine 

The CDC recommends that people aged 50 and older receive the newer vaccine Shingrix (there was an earlier vaccine, Zostavax, that is no longer used in the United States). The vaccine is an inactivated virus. Even if you already had the virus you should still get the vaccine since it is possible to get the virus more than once. 

There are two doses to the vaccine, administered 2 to 6 months apart and no booster shot is required. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of the vaccine if you are over the age of 50. If you need to pay out of pocket the vaccine costs around $200.

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