Can You Get Shingles More Than Once?

Plus, why it's important to get the shingles vaccine—even if you've had shingles before.

At a Glance

  • Shingles is a condition with a painful rash as its hallmark symptom.
  • It's possible to get shingles more than once since the virus that causes it stays in a person's body forever.
  • Getting vaccinated can help reduce the likelihood of having a recurrent episode of shingles.

Shingles is a viral infection that causes red, blister-like bumps on the skin. The same virus that causes chickenpox, varicella zoster virus (VZV), also causes shingles and is tough enough to endure once in your life. However, the question remains: can you get shingles more than once? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

Although rare, you can get chickenpox more than once. Since VZV causes chickenpox and shingles, it makes sense that you might endure the symptoms of pain, itching, and tingling skin more than once.

Shingles Symptoms

The hallmark symptom of shingles is the rash that typically occurs in a single stripe, or band, around the left or right side of the body.

Those rashes are most likely on the torso or chest but can also occur on the arms, head, face, eyes, and ears. A rash on one of those places might be the first sign that you should seek help from a healthcare provider.

Other common signs and symptoms of shingles include:

  • Burning, shooting pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Headache
  • Nausea

If you develop shingles, you may notice that your skin becomes sensitive, itchy, and painful several days before the rash appears. After blistering, the red bumps will eventually form scabs. The scabs disappear in as many as four weeks.

In some cases, the shingles rash can occur on one side of the face. If that happens, consult a healthcare provider right away. That type of rash can cause vision loss.

How Can You Get Shingles More Than Once?

It's uncommon to get shingles more than once, but it can happen. Once you have VZV, it never goes away. Anytime the virus is reactivated, you can have an episode of shingles.

Of everyone who has shingles, people with weak immune systems or taking medications that suppress their immune systems are more likely to have multiple shingles cases than others. Also, you may be likely to have a shingles recurrence if you experience pain after having shingles.

How To Prevent Shingles

Getting the shingles vaccine protects you from developing the illness and from having a shingles recurrence.

Zostavax, which the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved in 2006, was once the only shingles vaccine available to older adults. However, as of November 2020, Zostavax is no longer available in the United States.

Instead, another vaccine, Shingrix, is available and over 90% effective. The FDA approved Shingrix for adults 50 and older in 2017.

People who have had shingles before, or don't know if they had chickenpox during childhood, should get vaccinated with the possibility that shingles can recur. A healthcare provider will administer Shingrix in two doses, scheduled two to six months apart.

A Quick Review

Even though it's possible to have shingles more than once, the Shingrix vaccine can prevent those itchy, painful red blisters. Especially if you are immunocompromised or older than 50, consult a healthcare provider about the Shingrix vaccine to protect you. 

Shingles can lead to complications in some people. One of the most common complications is postherpetic neuralgia, long-term nerve damage.

Was this page helpful?
12 Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute on Aging. Shingles.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chickenpox (varicella) transmission.

  3. Shingles: Overview. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2019.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (herpes zoster) - clinical overview.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (herpes zoster) signs and symptoms.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (herpes zoster) transmission.

  7. American Academy of Dermatology. Shingles: who gets and causes.

  8. Nair PA, Patel BC. Herpes zoster. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2023.

  9. Kim YJ, Lee CN, Lee MS, et al. Recurrence rate of herpes zoster and its risk factors: a population-based cohort studyJ Korean Med Sci. 2019;34(2):e1. doi:10.3346/jkms.2019.34.e1

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What everyone should know about Zostavax.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles vaccination.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Complications of shingles.

Related Articles