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Terrified of Getting Shingles? Read These 3 Science-Backed Prevention Tips

Keep that painful, itchy rash away this winter.


Shingles, the viral illness that causes a painful, burning rash and nerve pain, is unfortunately common among adults in the US. It is caused by the same virus as chickenpox — a pathogen that can hide undetected in cells for decades until reactivated. While the reactivated virus isn’t fatal and the vaccine dramatically lowers your risk, additional protective measures are not a bad idea.

Why bother with further protective measures? Though a vaccine is your best chance of preventing the signature rash, blisters, and long-term nerve pain, it isn’t 100 percent effective. Plus, shingles is on the rise: A 2022 study found that people over 50 were more likely to develop the illness up to six months after a COVID diagnosis. Further research shows that the illness may also increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Although there’s no quick cure, these shingles prevention tips may reduce your likelihood of contracting the illness.

1. Stay active.

Even a small spike in stress can increase antibody-hampering cortisol enough to spur a shingles flare-up. But UCLA research suggests getting your body moving with activities like dance or tai chi every day may improve your body’s immunity. The study authors theorize that low-impact, full-body movement boosts specific immune cells that “remember” the chickenpox virus — increasing your immunity against shingles. Prefer walking? Take an active stroll, pumping your arms as you step.

2. Eat fruit.

Scientists reporting in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that enjoying three or more servings of fruit daily may be an effective and natural shingles prevention strategy. The theory is that micronutrients in fruit help keep the shingles virus from sneaking out of cells undetected and overwhelming your system when immunity is lowered — especially after a bout with COVID, a bad cold, or the flu. And not only does fruit pack potential shingles-fighting benefits, it tastes great, too.

3. Get vaccinated.

Unlike older versions of the shingles vaccine, which weren’t as effective, two doses of the latest Shingrix vaccine (FDA-approved since 2017) spaced two to six months apart cut shingles risk significantly, as confirmed by this study in The New England Journal of Medicine. And that immunity lasts at least a decade. Bonus: Most insurance covers the shots, available at drugstores.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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