Can I get shingles over and over again?

Biology/Immunity Infectious Diseases

Although not very common, getting shingles more than once is possible. The shingles vaccine can reduce the chance of recurrence.

If you have had shingles, there is a small chance that you will get it again. This is called recurrent shingles. This is really understudied, and not a lot is known about why or how likely it is that a person will get shingles again. The one source we found suggested that about 5 percent of people had a second flare-up within eight years after their first case of shingles. This is about the same chance of getting it for the first time if you are over 60 years old.

The CDC recommends that even if you have already had shingles, you should get the two-dose vaccine to reduce the risk of getting it again. You can get the vaccine as soon as the rashes have disappeared.

After having chickenpox as a child, the virus remains in our nerves inactive for the rest of our lives. It can get reactivated and cause shingles. And it can be reactivated more than once.

The highest risk of getting shingles more than once is for people with weak immune systems – from other health conditions or because of medicines that suppress immune response. Other risk factors include:

  • Severe pain (called post-herpetic neuralgia, or PHN) that lasted longer than 30 days during the first time case of shingles
  • Getting shingles for the first time at age 50 or older
  • Stress

While the symptoms of a second case of shingles are generally similar to the first one, one difference is the location of the rashes. In a repeat case of shingles, the rashes tend to appear on a different part of the body or on the opposite side of the body compared to the first time. So if previously the rashes were on the left side of the back, then the next time the rashes may appear on the right side or on the stomach, face, chest or neck. There is no difference in the way repeat cases of shingles are treated.

Shingles can be very painful and have long-term effects. The best way to prevent a repeat bout of shingles is to get the vaccine.

Stay safe, stay well!

Those Nerdy Girls

Link to Original Substack Post