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The Signs and Symptoms of Shingles

What is shingles?  

Shingles is a viral infection that can make you feel unwell and causes a painful rash. Shingles develops from the same virus as chickenpox, varicella-zoster virus. In this blog, we will talk about how to spot the signs and ways you can protect yourself from shingles. 

Who is at risk? 

You may be at risk of getting shingles later in life as the risk increases as you get older, with those over 50 being more vulnerable. You are at risk too, if you suffer from a weakened immune system due to stress or other illnesses, and if you are pregnant. 

What are the symptoms?

The first sign of shingles is tingling or a painful feeling in an area of skin, and a headache or feeling unwell. Other symptoms include a rash, that usually forms on one side of the body. 

Pain – The pain can be anywhere on the body, depending on the nerve affected. It usually appears in a band around one side of the body. The pain can vary from mild to severe. 

Rash The rash normally develops after a few days after the pain and usually appears on the chest or tummy; however, it can appear on the face and around the eyes. 

Very rarely does shingles cause more widespread infection. This can occur to those with weakened immune systems.  

Shingles normally last 2-4 weeks. Your skin can be painful for some time after the rash has healed. 

If you think you have shingles, see your GP immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment with antiviral medication can considerably reduce the severity and duration of the illness, and the risk of developing complications. 

A close up of a person's back covered in small red spots
The rash normally develops after a few days

How to treat shingles symptoms? 

At home 

If you have shingles, there are things you can do yourself to help with the symptoms.  

  • Taking paracetamol can help ease the pain 

  • It is important to keep the rash clean and dry to reduce your chances of infection. 

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing  

  • You can use ice wrapped in towel or a cold compress a few times a day. 


Your GP can help diagnose you quickly and prescribe antiviral medication to help with your symptoms. They may be able to give other advice that can help.  

Shingles vaccine 

As with most vaccines, the shingles vaccine isn’t 100% effective. However, getting vaccinated reduces your chances of developing shingles, and reduces your chances of developing serious problems if you do get shingles. 

If you are between 70-79 or over 50 with a weakened immune system, you may be eligible for a free shingles vaccination on the NHS. If you are over 50 and are healthy, you can get a shingles vaccination at our Canterbury clinic for £440 (£220 per dose). The type of vaccine we use is Shingrix and you need 2 doses of the vaccine for the full vaccination.  

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Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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