Working with Chicken Pox or Shingles

Chickenpox is very contagious and infects up to 90% of people who come into contact with the virus, it more commonly affects children. It’s caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The virus can lie dormant in the body for several years but may reappear following reactivation of the virus as shingles, a disease that occurs more often in adults. It’s not known what causes the virus to reactivate but it often occurs when you are run down.

Should I go to work with shingles?

You can develop chickenpox as a result of exposure to a person with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before, but only through direct skin contact with that person’s oozing blisters. When the blisters are dry and crusted over, they are no longer infectious.

People with shingles should be able to continue to work in most areas if they feel well and the affected area can be adequately covered by clothing. However, it should be noted that shingles can vary from very mild with no pain or discomfort to extremely painful and debilitating, and staff may need to take time off to recover.

Can I work with shingles?

This will depend largely on the type of workplace.
In a purely adult, non-care setting, it may be useful for other team members who have had contact with the infected employee to be made aware. The majority of people who have had the disease remain immune for life.

Colleagues who don’t think they have previously had chickenpox should be informed that they may develop the disease within 10 to 21 days. If they start to feel unwell within this time period, it may be sensible to take time off as soon as symptoms begin (e.g., cold-like symptoms, high temperature) in order to reduce the risk of the disease spreading further.

You should stay off work if the rash is still oozing fluid (weeping) and cannot be covered until the rash has dried out.

You can only spread the infection to others while the rash oozes fluid. You can cover the rash with loose clothing or a non-sticky dressing.

Frequently asked questions about shingles

Should I stay off work if I have shingles?

Shingles can be a very mild illness, or for some people, it can be very painful and debilitating. It will depend on the symptoms as to whether the person will need to stay off work.

What is the shingles incubation period?

Shingles doesn’t really have an incubation period, as the virus from when you had chicken pox is laying dormant in your body. The first signs that something is wrong may be a tingling or painful area of skin and generally feeling unwell. A rash usually appears a few days later.

It can take up to four weeks for the rash to heal.

Can you catch shingles from chicken pox?

You cannot catch shingles from someone with chicken pox, but you can catch chicken pox from someone with shingles if you haven’t had chicken pox before.

Can I go to work if my child has chickenpox?

If you haven’t had chicken pox before then, it is highly likely that if you are looking after a child with chicken pox, then you may catch it.

If you have had chicken pox yourself, then your immunity is usually lifelong and therefore, there is no reason for you to stay off work other than to look after your child.

For further advice, contact us at:

Telephone: 023 8047 5000

Find out more about our Occupational Health and Health Surveillance services.