Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Shingles treatments

4-minute read

There is no cure for shingles, but the condition can be treated with antiviral medicine which may help with the symptoms and help prevent complications such as ongoing pain (post-herpetic neuralgia). Antiviral medicine is most effective if you start it within 3 days of the rash appearing. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about whether antivirals are right for you.

Over-the counter medicines, such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, can be used for pain relief. If over-the-counter medicines are not controlling your pain, your doctor may prescribe other medicines.

To help relieve itchiness from the rash, try using cold, wet compresses. You can also try products such as calamine lotion, antihistamines, or aluminium acetate lotions, which are available from your local pharmacy.

What else can I do if I have shingles?

If you have shingles there are several things you can do to help manage the condition. They include the following:

  • Try to keep the rash as dry and as clean as possible.
  • Try not to scratch the rash. Scratching may cause infection and scarring of the blisters.
  • After a bath or shower, gently pat yourself dry with a clean towel. Do not rub or use the towel to scratch yourself and do not share towels.
  • Wear loose cotton clothes around the parts of the body that are affected.
  • If you do need to cover the blisters to prevent contamination, then use a non-stick dressing. Do not use antibiotic creams or sticking plasters on the blisters since they may slow down the healing process.
  • Cool compresses, baths or ice packs may help with the discomfort. Do not apply ice packs directly to the skin. Wrap the ice pack in a light towel and place it gently over the dressing. Wash the towel in hot water after use.
  • If the blisters are open, applying creams or gels is not recommended because they might increase the risk of a secondary bacterial infection.
  • Avoid contact with people who may be more at risk, such as pregnant women who are not immune to chickenpox, people who have a weak immune system and babies less than 1 month old.
  • Do not share towels, play contact sports, or go swimming.

Prevention

A vaccination called Zostavax is recommended for everyone over 60. It is given free of charge in Australia to people aged 70-79. Being vaccinated will not guarantee that you will not get shingles, but it will reduce your chance of developing the condition. Zostavax is not the same as the vaccine used to protect against chickenpox. Read more about the chickenpox vaccine here.

Shingles vaccine

Vaccination is your best protection against shingles. This table explains how the vaccine is given, who should get it, and whether it is on the National Immunisation Program Schedule. Some diseases can be prevented with different vaccines, so talk to your doctor about which one is appropriate for you.

What age is it recommended? Over 60.
How many doses are required? One
How is it administered? Injection
Is it free?

Free for adults aged 70 years to 79 years.

For everyone else, there is a cost for this vaccine.

Find out more on the Department of Health website and the National Immunisation Program Schedule, and ask your doctor if you are eligible for additional free vaccines based on your situation or location.

Common side effects The vaccine is very safe. Side effects may include pain, redness, swelling or itching where the needle went in, headache or tiredness.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your shingles, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2019

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Shingles

Shingles is a viral infection characterised by a painful rash on the skin. The infection is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Read more on WA Health website

Shingles in Australia

Shingles (herpes zoster) is an illness caused by the varicella zoster virus.

Read more on AIHW – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website

Shingles - Better Health Channel

Shingles is caused by the same virus responsible for chickenpox.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Shingles self-care - myDr.com.au

Shingles is a painful viral skin rash that usually appears on one side of your waist, but can affect your chest, back, legs or face. Find out what products are available to ease the pain of shingles.

Read more on myDr website

Shingles - myDr.com.au

Shingles is a painful rash caused by the chickenpox virus. Initial symptoms can be intense pain, burning or tingling on an area of skin on the face or body.

Read more on myDr website

Shingles in children and teenagers | Raising Children Network

Shingles is a viral infection that appears as a rash. Children can get shingles, but its more common in adults. Children with shingles need to see a GP.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Shingles (Herpes-Zoster)

Shingles (Herpes-Zoster) Category: Infections and Parasites Topic: Viral Infections Send by email View as PDF Send by post Shingles (or herpes zoster) is a condition caused by the chickenpox (varicella-zoster) virus and can only occur in people who have previously had chickenpox

Read more on Queensland Health website

Immunisation Coalition | Shingles - Immunisation Coalition

Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the same virus responsible for chicken pox. The virus can lay dormant in your body before being reactivated later in life to cause shingles.

Read more on Immunisation Coalition website

9 Things you should know about shingles

People who have had chickenpox can later develop shingles (herpes zoster), when the chickenpox virus re-activates. Shingles causes a painful rash.

Read more on myDr website

Shingles (herpes zoster) | Australian Government Department of Health

Shingles is a viral disease that can cause severe nerve pain. Vaccination is the best protection against shingles.

Read more on Department of Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo