Care & Treatment


All people aged 50 or older should get two doses of the shingles vaccine called Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine). This will help prevent shingles and its complications.

Get the second dose 2 to 6 months after the first dose. If you have a weakened immune system, you can get the second dose 1 to 2 months after the first dose.

You should get Shingrix even if in the past you:

  • Have already had shingles
  • Received a previous shingles vaccine called Zostavax
  • Received varicella (chickenpox) vaccine

If you have had shingles in the past, Shingrix can help prevent you from getting it again. There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after the acute stage of shingles is over before you can get Shingrix. Contact your health care professional or pharmacy to find out the schedule you should follow to yet your complete set of Shingle vaccinations. Your health care professional can also advise if you should not get the shingles shot due to past allergic reaction or immunization history.

Possible side effects of vaccination

Most people experience mild or moderate pain at the injection site. Some people experience fatigue, muscle pain, a headache, chills, fever, stomach pain, or nausea. About 1 out of 6 people who get Shingrix experienced side effects that prevented them from doing regular activities. Symptoms went away on their own in about 2 to 3 days. These reactions can occur after the first or second dose or both doses of Shingrix.

Prevent Spread to Others

Before they dry out and form scabs, the shingles blisters contain live chickenpox virus that may be spread to anyone. A person who touches the wet blisters can get chickenpox. Wash towels and other reusable items in very hot water and with strong detergent or soap. Items like tissues, wipes, or paper towels should be carefully thrown away.

Keep the affected skin clean in order to avoid bacterial infections.

Do not let anyone who has not had chickenpox come into contact with your rash or blisters while they are still open. People at high risk are: 

  • Older adults with weak immune systems
  • Pregnant women who have never had chickenpox
  • Infants who were born prematurely or who had low birth weight

Prescription Treatment

If you think you may have shingles, see a healthcare professional right away. Treatment must be started within 72 hours of the first symptoms to have a significant effect. The medication is even more effective before the rash appears.

Shingles can be treated with antiviral medication. Treatment that is started within 72 hours of symptoms appearing can decrease the length of time the disease lasts. After 72 hours, the medications are no longer effective for reducing symptoms or possible complication of shingles. The drugs are taken for 7 to 10 days.

There is no additional benefit to oral corticosteroids for improving quality of life or decreasing post-herpetic neuralgia.

If the antiviral drug is taken promptly, it is likely to:

  • Reduce pain
  • Reduce the length of time of your illness
  • Stop the disease from getting worse
  • Reduce the formation of blisters
  • Reduce the number of viruses in the blisters
  • Lower the risk of complications

Treat Symptoms

Even if you cannot take the antiviral treatment, other medications can help manage pain, rash, and other symptoms. These include:

  • Pain relievers
  • Antihistamines to reduce itching
  • Numbing patches and local anesthetics
  • Corticosteroids (such as prednisone)
  • Capsaicin cream

Non-Drug Treatment

You may find that some approaches that don’t involve medications are soothing, for example:

  • Cool, wet compresses
  • Acupuncture
  • Soothing baths (such as starch or oatmeal baths)
  • Lotions (such as calamine)


Last Updated October 2022

Back To Top