Aging & Health A to Z
Lifestyle & Management
Keep the affected skin clean in order to avoid bacterial infections. Remember that before they dry out and form crusts, the shingles blisters contain live chickenpox virus that may be contagious. A person who touches the wet blisters can be at risk of coming down with chickenpox (not shingles). Wash towels and other reusable items carefully in very hot water and strong detergent or soap. Items like tissues, wipe,s or paper towels should be carefully thrown away.
Do not let anyone who has not had chickenpox come into contact with your rash or blisters while they are still open. Take particular care to avoid skin contact with pregnant women who have never had chickenpox, infants who were premature or had low birth weight, and older adults with weakened immune systems.
Complications of Shingles
The most common complication of shingles is post-herpetic neuralgia, or PHN. One in five shingles patients experience PHN. This is when the severe pain continues for months, or even years after the rash and blisters clear up. PHN is more likely to occur if you are over the age of 60 and were not able to start antiviral shingles treatment promptly. Older shingles patients are more likely to experience PHN.
PHN is caused by nerve damage that makes the nerve send pain signals in response to triggers that normally don’t cause pain. PHN can be difficult to treat. The pain of post-herpetic neuralgia is described as burning, throbbing, aching, stabbing or shooting. Your healthcare provider will prescribe pain medications similar to those used for the pain of shingles.
Updated: May 2017
Posted: March 2012