What information about herpes zoster (shingles) should patients receive?

Updated: Jan 25, 2019
  • Author: Camila K Janniger, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Answer

Patients should be informed about the natural progression of herpes zoster and its potential complications.

During the acute phase, patients are infective and contagious to others and should be instructed to avoid contact with elderly people, people who are immunocompromised, pregnant women, people with no history of chickenpox infection. It is especially contagious to infants and babies.

In regard to treatment, patients should be instructed that treatment should be started within 72 hours of onset if at all possible, not only to speed resolution of the shingles itself but also to prevent PHN. Once PHN begins, treatment is much more difficult and often unsuccessful. Patients should also be told not to scratch the lesions; doing so may predispose them to secondary bacterial infections.

For patient education resources, see the Infections Center, as well as Shingles and Chickenpox. Additionally, an informational video is provided below.

What is herpes? Herpes is a virus causing sores most commonly around the mouth (oral herpes) and genitals (genital herpes).

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