Routine shingles vaccination for older people was introduced in Wales in 2013 and from 1st September 2023 is available for people aged 65, and 70 to 79 and people aged 50 years an over who are severely immunosuppressed.

Shingles is an infection that causes a painful rash.

Check if you have shingles

The first signs of shingles can be:

  • a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin
  • a headache or feeling generally unwell

A rash will usually appear a few days later.

Usually you get shingles on your chest or tummy, but it can appear on your face, eyes and genitals.

The shingles rash appears as red blotches on your skin, usually on one side of your body only. A rash on both sides of your body is unlikely to be shingles.

The blotches become itchy blisters that ooze fluid. A few days later, the blisters dry out and scab over.

The skin remains painful until after the rash has gone.

If it affects your eye, the shingles can also make your eye red and sore, affect your sight or hearing, or make it difficult to move one side of your face.

If you think you might have shingles get advice from NHS 111 Wales or your GP practice as soon as possible

You might need medicine to help speed up your recovery and avoid longer-lasting problems.

This works best if taken within 3 days of your symptoms starting.

How to treat shingles symptoms yourself


  • take paracetamol to ease pain
  • keep the rash clean and dry to reduce the risk of infection
  • wear loose-fitting clothing
  • use a cool compress (a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel or a wet cloth) a few times a day


  • let dressings or plasters stick to the rash
  • use antibiotic cream - this slows healing

How long shingles lasts

It can take up to 4 weeks for the rash to heal.

Your skin can be painful for weeks after the rash has gone, but it usually settles over time. Some people have pain for much longer.

Stay away from certain groups of people if you have shingles

You can't spread shingles to others. But people who haven't had chickenpox before could catch chickenpox from you.

This is because shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus.

Try to avoid:

  • pregnant women who have not had chickenpox before
  • people with a weakened immune system - like someone having chemotherapy
  • babies less than 1 month old - unless it's your own baby, as they should be protected from the virus by your immune system


Stay off work or school if the rash is still oozing fluid (weeping) and can't be covered - or until the rash has dried out.

You're only infectious to others while the rash oozes fluid.

You can cover the rash with loose clothing or a non-sticky dressing.

Shingles and pregnancy

If you're pregnant and get shingles, there's no danger to your pregnancy or baby.

However, you should be referred to a specialist, as you may need antiviral treatment.

You can't get shingles from someone with chickenpox

You can't get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox.

But you can get chickenpox from someone with shingles if you haven't had chickenpox before.

When people get chickenpox, the virus remains in the body. It can be reactivated later and cause shingles if someone's immune system is lowered.

This can be because of stress, certain conditions, or treatments like chemotherapy.

Shingles vaccination

A free shingles vaccine is available from NHS Wales for people aged 65 and  70 to 79 years and people aged 50 years and over who are severely immunosuppressed.. It helps reduce your risk of getting shingles.

The shingles vaccine helps to protect you by boosting your immunity and reducing your risk of getting shingles. If you get shingles after being vaccinated, the symptoms are likely to be much milder.

Ask at your GP surgery if you are eligible.

Find out more about who can have the shingles vaccine.

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website
Last Updated: 05/09/2023 12:47:46