Questions and answers

Is shingles the same thing as “hellfire”?
Yes, “hellfire” and “belt of fire” are older names for shingles. The name for shingles in Danish and Norwegian is still  “hellfire” (helveteseld) today. The name probably comes from the pain, which is often intense, burning and can last a long time – just like the fires of hell in mythology.

My grandchildren have chickenpox. Should I keep away from them?
No, as long as your grandchildren are feeling lively enough to spend time with you neither of you will suffer as a result. You cannot get shingles from spending time with someone who has chickenpox. Shingles develops when your own chickenpox virus is reactivated.
 
Is shingles infectious?
You can’t get shingles from spending time with someone who has shingles. On the other hand, a person with shingles, who has blisters, can infect a person who has never had chickenpox. This person then develops chickenpox, not shingles. Read more about how people develop shingles.
 
If you have shingles, you should avoid spending time with people who have not had chickenpox, particularly pregnant women or people with an impaired immune system. They can become seriously ill if they get chickenpox.
 
I have had shingles – can I still be vaccinated?
Yes, you can be vaccinated against shingles even if you have already had the disease.
 
I have never had chickenpox, can I still get shingles?
You can only get shingles if you have had chickenpox. If you have not had chickenpox you can be infected by someone who has chickenpox or shingles. You then get chickenpox, not shingles.
 
Does shingles (herpes zoster) have anything to do with “common herpes”?
Mouth ulcers, genital herpes and shingles are caused by different viruses, but with the common feature that they remain in your body after the first time you are infected.
 
Who can get shingles?
Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles. It often happens with advancing age, but in most cases there is no known cause for shingles breaking out. The vast majority of people who develop shingles are otherwise completely healthy. Natural ageing is the principal risk factor. Most people who get shingles are over the age of 50.

I have shingles – can I be vaccinated?
It is not possible to treat shingles that has already developed by vaccination. The vaccine is preventive and must be administered before the illness appears.