Am trying to find out what the incubation period is for shingles. I had my first infusion of abatacept Friday before last. Second one is this Thursday. Am also on 20 mg methotrexate, plus hydroxychloroquine and amatripyline. I was told to avoid anybody with chickenpox or shingles. Unfortunately a friend I had dinner with 2 weeks ago has now been told she has shingles. I should add that I had chickenpox as a child and shingles about 15 years ago. It has taken me so long to get on to a biologic that I would be most upset if I had to delay it now. Not even sure what the problem is with shingles. If anybody has any experience of this I would very much welcome any advice.

15 Replies

  • I'm not sure about the incubation period, but I do think y ou should contact your doctor, shingles is more serious and less easy to treat when you are immunosuppressed. You might need prophylactic antiviral treatment.

    As I know to my cost, it is possible to have shingles more than once.

    Hope you get away with it! M xx

  • Thanks for this. Think I will phone my CNS who is particularly good.

  • I think it's the same incubation as chicKen pox, my Mum has just had it on her face and the doctor told her she was infectious until the spots had crusted over.

    Please phone GP for advice don't take any chances.


  • Hi

    I had shingles a few months back and the incubation period is 5-7 days, as soon as spots crust over. My kids have just both had chickenpox. Nhs says 5 days for them from last spot appearing. Although airlines say 7 days but nhs policy is 5 days. Hope this helps. Lx

  • You would have to be in contact with the pustules of shingles in the early stages for shingles to be infectious to you - where did your friend develop shingles? - if in a covered area you are probably not at risk .

    There is some suggestion that exposure to the chickenpox virus can sometimes trigger off an attack of shingles, but remember it is the virus in your own body that is being triggered off to spread from the nerve roots where it is hiding out. So many things can trigger it off!

    It is not like catching chickenpox itself, when the incubation period is stated to be 14-21 days.

  • This is what I was told too. Its the fluid in the pustules which contains the virus. Yuk. I had it in April and didnt know what it was. So I missed the deadline for the anti-virals although I was given some. I still have a (shortening) band of pain around my eyebrow. Not a nice experience at all.

  • My doctor said that the chicken pox virus stays in your spine and when you are at your lowest ebb they strike your nerve ends and shingles are triggered off. I have had them 3 times and they get less each time. I was once told it can only be "caught" from someone by skin to skin contact.

  • Hi, I'm just getting over shingles. Doctors gave me antiviral drugs and still taking my Hydroxychloroquine,Sulfasalazine, Leflunomide ,Prednisolone, Amitriptyline and lots of pain killers and other meds. Was told not to stop taking them. Sandy.

  • Sorry thought I was on my hubbys . It's not me that has the RA and just getting over the dreaded Shingles it's my husband.

  • HI thelmar,

    If you have had chickenpox:

    You cannot catch shingles from someone with shingles (or someone with chickenpox).

    You should be immune to chickenpox, but hard to know for certain without a blood test as some people are not sure that they have had the condition before and there is some evidence to suggest that a small minority do not develop antibodies to it. For info on the blood test:

    From BBC health pages: (

    The skin blisters that form in shingles are full of the chickenpox virus, which means a person with shingles is infectious. You can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles, if you've never had the infection and therefore aren't immune. But you can't catch shingles from someone with shingles (or someone with chickenpox).

    From NHS Choices on shingles:

    It is not possible to catch shingles from someone else with the condition. The shingles virus is reactivated from a previous infection with the varicella-zoster virus (the virus that causes chickenpox) and is not transmitted by person-to-person contact.

    However, it is possible for someone who has never had chickenpox to catch chickenpox from someone with shingles. In the UK, chickenpox is so common during childhood that 9 out of 10 adults have had it, so will not be affected.

    If you have shingles, you are contagious until the last blister has scabbed over. This will usually occur five to seven days after your symptoms started.

    Hope this helps


    Beverley (NRAS Helpline)

  • Thank you for this Beverley. It would seem that I can stop worrying about my infusion on Thursday. Thanks also to all the other people who replied.

  • My GP offered me the vaccine against shingles but we're having difficulty in sorting out a suitable window what with rituximab, knee replacements and so on! And I'm not 70 (yet) but GP is on my side.

  • Shingles is caught by being in contact with chicken pox which "re activates" the virus in the nerve endings. You cannot get shingles from shingles, but there's is a chance shingles can cause chicken pox if you've never had it

  • My consultant when I started Cimzia said the biologic can removed your immunity to chicken pox, so that having chickenpox previously isn't a guarentee that you won't get it again. The blisters from shingles are teaming with the virus and when they're broken you shed the virus and it remains active for quite some hours where ever it lands. With bothe shingles and chickenpox you need to be seen asap if on cimzia chicken pox can be extremely dangerous for us and I believe you need to be admitted to hosp and have IV anti virals. I would suggest if on Biologics ring the supplying company pharmacist or your specialist nurse for the exact procedure you need to follow.

  • A very big thank you to all of you who replied. Once I got over my initial panic about my friend's shingles it became clear that I was not in any danger. Had my second infusion today without any problems. We have a lovely new infusion suite with very comfortable reclining chairs and a coffee machine that dispenses lattes, cappuccinos, etc. so all in all quite a pleasant experience. As I am having a new kitchen fitted and living in total chaos it was actually quite pleasant to sit and relax for a while. Now have my fingers crossed that the Abacept will do its job.

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