Shingles is a reaction of the varicella-zoster virus that typically lies dormant in a person’s body for years after having chickenpox from the same virus. This condition causes painful blister-like sores that often appear near the person’s waist but can develop on other areas of the body. The shingles contagious period is over once the blisters have crusted over and are healing.

People do not get shingles from other people who have shingles. The condition is only contagious to people who have not had chickenpox. If a person who has not had chickenpox is exposed to someone with shingles, that person may develop chickenpox. As with anyone who has had chickenpox, that person would then be at risk of having shingles at a later time.

Though younger people who have had chickenpox can develop shingles, most people who get shingles are over forty years old. A shingles vaccine was introduced in 2006 that can prevent or lessen the severity of shingles.

The shingles vaccine also reduced the incidence of complications of shingles in people who were vaccinated and got shingles. A physician may recommend the shingles vaccine to people over the age of sixty who have had chickenpox.

The person may experience pain and sensitivity in the affected area for up to a week before the shingles blisters form. Once the small, red blisters begin to form, they may continue to develop for three to five days. The blisters pop and may ooze until they crust over and begin to heal.

When all the blisters have formed scabs and no new blisters are forming, the shingles is no longer contagious. Until then, people with shingles may want to cover the affected area when they will be around people.

Some resources suggest refraining from kissing anyone who has not had chickenpox since the varicella-zoster virus is present in saliva. There have been cases in which the condition is suspected to have been spread by kissing.

A pregnant woman can pass chickenpox to her unborn child. If the newborn develops chickenpox in utero or soon after birth, the infant is at risk for having pediatric shingles before the age of five. This is because the infant’s immune system is not developed enough to keep the varicella-zoster virus suppressed.

Shingles is not uncommon. It is estimated that twenty-five percent of adults will get shingles during their lifetime. Usually, this condition does not cause any complications. Infection and nerve damage are potential complications of shingles.

The chickenpox vaccine protects people against shingles since the same virus causes both chickenpox and shingles. Now that many children in the United States are being vaccinated against chickenpox, it is expected that the incidence of shingles will dramatically decrease when the vaccinated patients are at an age when shingles is usually a concern.

Some experts believe that the vaccination of children against chickenpox will raise the incidence of shingles among adults who have not been vaccinated since they will not have secondary exposure to chickenpox to boost their immunity to the virus.