“Getting the opportunity to know on time what caused the rash on my mother’s back was a relief which meant we were able to take all the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the viral infection and also meant an unnecessary visit to the doctor’s surgery was avoided” – says a relative who had consulted with our private GP service.
Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. The rash first appears as groups of red spots within a pink-red area on the skin, which quickly turn into small fluid-filled blisters. The area then slowly dries out, and crusts and scabs form which later drop off over the next three weeks.
The virus would have remained inactive in the body for a long time after a past episode of chickenpox, but it reappears as shingles. It is more likely in the elderly, or anybody undergoing major stress, or during illnesses that cause the body to become run-down, subsequently reducing the body’s ability to fight germs. This is the reason the shingles vaccine is now available with aim of reducing the occurrence and severity of shingles in people aged 70 years and older. The UK Health Security Agency has produced a shingles vaccination leaflet that describes shingles and the benefits of vaccination for adults.
Get urgent advice from a doctor if you think you have shingles, as you may need to have antiviral medication. Avoid contact with people who have not had chickenpox, particularly pregnant women, newborn babies and people with reduced immunity.
You may need to take time off work or avoid attending school if the rash is weeping, but you will be able to return to your daily activities once the rash has dried out and crusted over.