Shingles

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Shingles

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​Shingles (herpes zoster) is a blistery rash on your skin caused by the chickenpox virus. Take over-the-counter painkillers to alleviate the symptoms.

After a childhood chickenpox infection the virus remains in the body and may reactivate with age causing a blistery rash on your skin. Shingles usually appears on the body, but may flare up on the face, too, but only rarely on the limbs. Shingles appears only on one side of the medial line of the body. The rash typically wraps around the body like a belt. On the face, shingles can affect the eye, ear or mucous membranes.

Symptoms

​Pain, burning sensation and tenderness are typical symptoms of shingles. In a few days from the first symptoms, the skin turns red and small blisters appear. The patient may have a raised temperature and feel unwell.  Over the next week, more blisters appear, and they will gradually scab over. The rash clears in 4–6 weeks and the skin usually heals completely, but the affected area of the skin may stay sore for a long time after the blisters have healed.

Self-care

​A mild episode of shingles can be treated at home. Showering and bathing the rash area regularly may help. The blistered area of skin can be covered with a non-adherent dressing or hydrocolloid bandages available in pharmacies. Take painkillers or anti-inflammatory analgesics of your own preference to ease the pain. Pharmacy staff will help you select the right product, if necessary. Topical treatments do not help to heal shingles blisters.

As long as you have blisters, the virus may spread to others who have not yet had chickenpox, although this is rare. Avoid contact with severely immunosuppressed persons until your blisters have dried out, but other than that you do not have to be social distancing. If you're over 50 years of age, you can get an anti-shingles vaccine to protect yourself against the disease. Vaccine is not a part of the national vaccination programme.

A mild bout of shingles usually heals in four weeks’ time.​

When should you seek medical advice?

​You should seek medical advice, if

  • you have a rash on your forehead or around your eye or nose
  • your immune system is affected by an illness or medication
  • you have severe pain and ache
  • you have an exceptionally large area of blistery rash
  • your general health clearly deteriorates
  • the patient is over 60 years of age

More information

The producers of the instruction

​​​​​Emergency care professionals have produced the instruction in collaboration with Terveyskirjasto.​

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Updated  22.4.2021