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Shingles: first signs, what does it look like, triggers, how contagious is it and the four stages – Liverpool Echo

Apr 18th, 2023

There has been increased concerns about shingles after ITV announced yesterday that Holly Willoughby had fallen ill with the infection.

Shingles is a painful infection that causes a painful rash on your skin. The NHS has advised that you should get advice from 111 as soon as possible if you think you have it.

The health service has further information on its website about the infection. This includes information about the first signs of shingles and how contagious the infection is.

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What are the first signs of shingles?

One sign of shingles can be a tingling or painful feeling in an area of your skin. Another could be a headache or feeling generally unwell.

A rash will appear a few days later. Shingles are usually contained to your chest and stomach, but it can appear anywhere on your body, including your face, eyes and genitals. The rash will appear as blotches on just one side of your body. A rash on both sides of your skin is unlikely to be shingles.

What are the four stages of shingles?

Firstly, the blotches become itchy blisters that ooze fluid. Then the rash will become red, which might be harder to see on black and brown skin.

The rash will then form a cluster that only appears on one side of your body. This will remain painful until the rash has gone.

The rash may be in and around your eye, which can affect your sight, hearing and make it hard to move one side of your face.

A few days later, the blisters dry out and scab, but it can take up to four weeks for the rash to heal. Some may be left with ongoing pain where the rash occurred.

What triggers shingles?

Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus, meaning those who have had chickenpox before are at risk of developing shingles. People who are older or have trouble fighting infections, such as those with HIV or cancer, are also more likely to develop shingles.

How contagious is shingles?

You cant spread shingles to other people. However, those who have not had chickenpox before could catch it from you. Those with shingles are advised to avoid pregnant people who have not had chickenpox previously, as well as those with a weakened immune system and babies less than one month old.

How can you ease the pain of shingles?

Taking paracetamol can ease the pain of shingles. It is a necessity to keep the rash clean and dry to reduce the risk of further infection.

You could also wear loose-fitting clothing and apply a cool compass a few times a day. This is a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel of wet cloth.

You should not let dressings or plasters stick to the rash. Antibiotic cream should not be applied either, as this slows the healing.

Is there a vaccine for shingles?

A shingles vaccine is available on the NHS for over 70s. If you catch shingles after being vaccinated, the symptoms can be much milder.

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Shingles: first signs, what does it look like, triggers, how contagious is it and the four stages - Liverpool Echo

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