Do I need to get vaccinated against shingles?

Shingles is a painful infection of a nerve and the surrounding skin caused by the varicella-zoster virus that also causes chickenpox. There is a shingles vaccine available on the NHS.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

The first symptom of shingles is a burning sensation on the skin. Then painful blisters form. These burst and become sores. They commonly affect a single area of the body, and often just on one side.

The shingles rash can take a long time to heal and you will probably need to take time off from your normal activities to rest and get better.

What should I do if I have shingles?

Get medical advice if you think you have shingles. This is a very painful condition that is difficult to manage alone. A GP can prescribe meds that will help with the pain and speed your recovery and a pharmacist can also advise on over-the-counter remedies to help with the symptoms. Healthcare professionals will want to keep an eye on you to make sure you don’t get longer lasting problems.

How dangerous is shingles?

As well as being painful shingles can result in some dangerous complications including meningitis, encephalitis, eye damage and long-term pain. Your GP will tell you what to look out for when you have shingles. If you’re at all worried about your shingles symptoms, go to or call 111.

There is no danger to your baby if you get shingles while pregnant, but you may have to see a specialist.

Is shingles a risk to people with rheumatoid arthritis?

People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are particularly prone to shingles, and a drug used to treat RA, tofacitinib, is thought to increase vulnerability to the infection.

How common is shingles?

One in four people will suffer from shingles at least once. One in five people who have had chickenpox will get shingles.

Is shingles infectious?

You can’t catch shingles from another person. It occurs when a virus already in your body from a previous chickenpox infection reactivates. You can’t catch shingles from a person with chickenpox; but a person who has not had chickenpox can catch it if they come in contact with fluid from a shingles blister. If you have shingles, stay away from people whose immune systems are compromised, and very young babies.

How do I avoid shingles?

The shingles virus reactivates for a variety of reasons, including ill-health and stress. It can also be activated by a change of medication or just by old age.

There are two shingles vaccines, which will reduce your chances of getting it. The vaccines against shingles are:

  • Zostavax
  • Shingrix

Can I get the shingles vaccine?

Some people can get the shingles vaccine on the NHS. To find out more about this visit the NHS shingles vaccine overview. Other people will have to pay privately for their shingles vaccine at a private vaccination clinic.