Q+A: I had shingles. Will running make it return?

Our experts answer real-life questions


Posted: 9 September 2000
by Patrick Milroy

Q I have just had a rather severe bout of shingles. My doctor said that the condition may have actually been bought on by my running. I’m scared that if start to run again I risk a recurrence – something I definitely want to avoid. Should I be worried?

A Shingles is an infection caused by the herpes zoster virus, which is identical to that which causes chicken pox in children. Scientific tests suggest that shingles is a reactivation of a previous infection by the chicken pox virus, which has lain dormant in the body. Because it involves nerve roots, it can be particularly painful. It’s most common in the nerves supplying the trunk where, usually, one side is covered in painful raised spots known as vesicles. It tends to be most painful in the elderly, and is particularly dangerous if it affects the eyes, as this could mean that an infection has occurred in the cranial nerves.

Shingles takes longer to heal than chicken pox, and may leave in its wake a pain known as post-herpetic neuralgia. Treatment may involve an expensive anti-viral tablet, but simply applying calamine lotion can be very soothing.

You’re actually more likely to contract shingles if you’re run down or are already suffering from another illness. So, as a healthy runner, you were probably just unlucky in developing the condition, and would probably be doubly unlucky were it to return. I would suggest that you could start running as soon as the rash has dried up and the scabs have disappeared.

Patrick Milroy, RW Medical Advisor


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