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What are the risks to me (on anti-TNF + Methotrexate) of being exposed to shingles?

I've heard people in the day-care unit talking about getting shingles and how its disrupted their treatment. Now an old friend is coming back to the UK for a short holiday and I'd love to see her, but she says she's had shingles. Before I say anything, what do we know about shingles and how it can be transmitted. Is there a vaccine against it - my sister says there is.

14 Replies

Hi Cathie, if you have not had chicken pox as a child there is a risk of you catching it from someone who has shingles but only through direct contact - it's not an air born virus which you can get from coughs and sneezes. If you've had chicken pox then the virus stays in your body until it's reactivated and comes out as shingles, you can't get shingles from shingles!

I got shingles 4 yrs ago when just after RA diagnosis, I was very run down and on was pretty awful so feel for your friend! As far as I know there isn't a vaccine for it but there are anti-viral medications that you take to try and limit the length of the disease. I was given aciclovir which did seem to help, although even now I'm sometimes troubled by nerve pain where I had the shingles.

There is more info if you follow this link:

Failing that give your GP a call just to verify any doubts but I'm sure you'd be fine to spend time with your friend! xx


Thanks, hope your shingles doesnt recurr. I've had chickenpox, and hope that I didnt sound too unsympathetic to my friend!!

I googled singles and found some info on the bbc health website too.



I've had shingles twice in the past 10 years - I too had anti-virals to try to lessen the effects. Had to stop the Methotrexate for 6 weeks (not great for the RA) and was really unwell for what felt like ages - I've got enduring neuropathic pain in my arm from the second bout.

So if you know that someone has chickenpox or shingles - keep away from them - this can be difficult as people are infectious for 2-3 days before the rash starts. When I was re-training I asked my training group to let me know if they had been in contact with chicken pox or shingles. Anyone who is immuno-suppressed is particularly at risk from this infection.

I actually sat in a meeting next to someone who at the end of the meeting turned to me and said (in reply to a 'how are you?' enquiry) "apparently, I've got shingles" !!! I was too stunned to reply sensibly but she had just sat in a small hot room with 12 others and being a nurse in a former career really should have known better!

Cece x


these are good answers


They are good answers. I think I'd better talk to my (very good) practice nurse or GP before I see my friend!

I really identify with Cece's experience - even catching colds can stop the anti-TNFs. My father (aged 100 now) never lets us go near him if we have a cough or something which could be infectious. But when he got shingles he was just sorry for himself. It would have been too complicated to have explained to him about imunosuppressants. Perhaps that's why 'how are you' when we meet people - to know when to keep a distance!

Cathie XX


Iif any is interested the anti viral medicene( have had it myself!) as developed chickenpox in my 35th year and was a tad poorly is called Aciclovir.

There is a " live vaccine " not commonly available for chickenpox it has to be given very quickly.. and immuno supressed people eg steroids. methotrexate people cannot take live vaccines, and for the travellers amoung you that includes yellow fever vaccine too !!!

I have been a bit unwell,but was one of the few in work today!!! dr appoint this afternoon has got me some oramorph so a bit more happy !


thanks - I'm going to pursue this as it sounds potentially quite disruptive to anti-tnf treatment. Thanks for all!

and keep well, summer.


anti tnf is fine for most people we must remember that our treatments often cause immnuo suppresion.. eg anti tnf, steroids, methotrexate,, but the treatments offer a good quality of life better than previous, its the old benefits out way the risks!!, methotrexate is great for most people, steroids can perform miracles but shouldnt be taken long term at high doses.. some people say on a low dose indefinately for various reasons

people shouldnt be scared the side effects lists are often over comprehensive


I have been tested to see if I had had immunity to herpes zoster this is the virus that causes chickpox and shingles. Why not see you GP if he can do this blood test for you?


good idea ra-fibro aka julie xx


thanks Alison x


Hi Cathie, I live in Colombia I would like you know how to cure shingles, please watch this video at:


And also this one

Successful treatment of herpetic infections by auto-hemotherapy

I hope had helped you, if you have some question dont hesitate in contact me

Best regards


We would always encourage everyone to ask for scientific evidence when considering non-standard treatments for any conditions.

As far as NRAS and the British Society of Rheumatology (BSR) are aware there is currently no cure for rheumatoid arthritis.

Kind regards

Sarah Kate

NRAS Helpline


I am not engaging any further in this correspondence as I endorse the NRAS/ BSR position. Thankyou.


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