Can Shingles be Contagious to Older Adults?

pictorial representation of a person itching. Can Shingles be Contagious to Older Adults?

Can Shingles be Contagious to Older Adults?

Shingles is the reactivated form of chicken pox in older-adults, it is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Varicella-zoster virus is one of the nine (9) herpes virus that infects humans, it causes chicken pox in younger people and shingles in older adults.


  • Shingles causes pains and discomfort to the patient, skin rash and most especially postherpetic neuralgia (the burning sensation that arises after the blisters and rash of the shingles have disappeared).
  • Research have shown that immune compromised individuals and individuals that are always stressed are at high risk of having shingles.
  • Individuals that had suffered from chicken pox are at a high risk of developing shingles that is why it is advisable to get the dose of shingrix vaccine at the age of 50 because older-adults are at a higher risk of developing shingles.

Signs and Symptoms of shingles in older adults

When an individual has shingles, there are several signs the individual begins to notice and these signs can be divided into three (3) namely:

  • Pre-eruptive phase or preherpetic neuralgia: This is the first stage in which the individual begins to have severe headaches, pains such as abdominal pains and pains all over the body, the individual also begins to experience itching all over the body, general weakness of the body and fever might occur. This signs and symptoms in the preeruptive phase can last up to 48 hours.
  • Acute eruptive phase: This is the next phase of signs and symptoms of shingles after the preeruptive phase. This phase takes up to fifteen (10-15) days before it can be resolved. This is the stage where the virus is easily transmitted to others. Some of the signs and symptoms in this phase includes: all the symptoms in the pre-eruptive phase, pigmentation of the skin changes and lesions begins to appear on the skin.
  • Chronic phase: The chronic phase is also called the postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), symptoms in this phase takes longer period before they can be resolved, it can be up to thirty (30) or more days. Signs and symptoms in this phase includes: excruciating pains, abnormal skin sensations like burning.

Causes of shingles in older adults

Shingles is brought about by the varicella-zoster infection — the very infection that causes chickenpox. Any individual who has had chickenpox might foster shingles. After suffering from chicken pox and you recuperate from the chickenpox, strains of the virus (Varicella-zoster virus) enters your sensory system and are lethargic for quite a long time.

At last, it might reactivate and venture out along nerve pathways to your skin — delivering shingles. Be that as it may, not every person who has had chickenpox will have shingles.  The justification for shingles is indistinct. Yet, it very well might be because of susceptibility to diseases as you are getting old. Older-adults over the age of 50 years and individuals who have debilitated immune system are at a high risk for shingles. 

Stress is another cause of shingles, when an individual that had suffered from chickenpox undergoes stress either due to emotional or chronic stress, research have shown that the Varicella-zoster virus can become active again due to the stress and then causes shingles.

Risk factors of shingles in older adults

  • Having suffered from chicken pox.
  • Being older than 50 years.
  • Having immuno-compromising diseases.
  • Undergoing Radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
  • Taking specific drugs.
  • Organ transplant.

How shingles can be diagnosed in an older adult

When an older-adult is suspected to have contracted shingles, there will be a need to visit the doctor who will extract fluid from one of the blisters and send to the lab for further analysis. A diagnosis will be made upon receipt of the lab results.

Complications of shingles in older adults

Complications from having or suffering from shingles can include:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia: For certain individuals, shingles torment proceeds long after the rankles have cleared. This condition is known as postherpetic neuralgia, and it happens when harmed nerve strands send befuddled and overstated messages of agony from your skin to your mind.
  • Eye contamination: Shingles in or around an eye (ophthalmic shingles) can cause difficult eye contaminations that might bring about vision challenges.
  • Neurological issues: Contingent upon which nerves are impacted, shingles can cause an irritation of the mind (encephalitis), facial loss of motion, or hearing or equilibrium issues.
  • Skin contaminations: If shingles are not treated on time, bacterial skin contaminations might arise.

Prevention of shingles in older adults

  • There is no remedy for shingles, however brief treatment can reduce the term and seriousness of the condition. Treatment for shingles in older-adults is most often a mix of antiviral medications and relief from discomfort. Oral antiviral medications like acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex) can diminish the severity of the manifestations, given that treatment commences within 72 hours of the presence of the rash.
  • The most ideal way of preventing complications of shingles in older-adults is not to get it in any case. Older-adults over the age of 50 are strongly advised to get immunized against shingles. The antibody called Shingrix (recombinant zoster immunization) gives solid assurance against shingles and PHN; it is given in two dosages isolated by two to a half year. A few investigations show that the antibody provides 90 percent chances of reducing shingles.

When to see a doctor for shingles in older adults

  • Whenever an older-adult above the age of 50, begin to experience symptoms of shingles such as pains, fever, general body weakness and most especially rash on the body, the individual need to see his or her medical practitioner immediately for diagnosis.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is shingles contagious to older adults?

  • Individuals with shingles are infectious just to individuals who are not resistant to chickenpox. Many individuals are resistant to chickenpox through antibodies or past diseases. The individuals who are not safe and have direct contact with the rashes open injuries might foster chickenpox.

How long does the shingles infection stay active?

  • Most instances of shingles last three to five weeks. The main sign is frequently burning or shivering pain.

What would I keep away from if I have shingles?

  • Arginine is an amino acid that helps the shingles infection recreate. Chocolate, nuts and seeds, canned fish, and gelatin all contain undeniable degrees of arginine. Other arginine-substantial food varieties to avoid are tomatoes, raw grain, Brussels fledglings, and a few organic products including grapes, blackberries and blueberries.

Final thoughts

The shingles vaccine is not used to treat individuals who have the infection, it is used only for prevention of Shingles. See your doctor when you think you may have shingles.

Read also: How To Manage Anxiety in Older Adults


R. Harpaz, et al., Psychological Stress as a Trigger for Herpes Zoster: Might the Conventional Wisdom Be Wrong?, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 60, Issue 5, 1 March 2015, Pages 781–785,

Gilden D, et al. Varicella-zoster virus in the nervous system. F1000Res. 2015;4:1000 Faculty Rev 1356. Published 2015 November 26. https//

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