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What can be mistaken for shingles?

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

Shingles, caused by the varicella-zoster virus, is a painful viral infection that often appears as a rash on one side of the body. It’s quite common, especially in older adults.

Shingles can sometimes be tricky to identify because its symptoms can resemble other conditions. However, recognizing shingles early is crucial for getting the right treatment.

If you think you might have shingles, don’t wait to see your doctor. Book an online consultation with a pharmacist to get the care and treatment you need.

What can be mistaken for shingles rash?

When it comes to identifying shingles, several conditions share symptoms or characteristics that can lead to confusion. Here are some conditions that might be mistaken for shingles and why:


Eczema is a chronic skin condition characterised by dry, itchy skin and inflammation. In some cases, eczema can cause fluid-filled blisters that resemble the blisters seen in shingles.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disorder that causes thick, red patches of skin covered with silvery scales. Although psoriasis is usually quite different from shingles, certain forms of psoriasis, such as guttate psoriasis, may appear as small, red spots that can be mistaken for shingles, particularly if they occur in a similar distribution.

Allergic rash:

Allergic reactions can cause hives (urticaria) and localised swelling of the skin, often accompanied by itching and discomfort. The appearance of hives or contact dermatitis may be mistaken for the rash associated with shingles, especially if the reaction occurs along a specific nerve pathway.

If you’re still not sure if you’re suffering from one of these conditions or shingles, click the “Book Now” button to the right of this article to speak online with a pharmacist who can correctly diagnose your condition and prescribe appropriate treatment. 

Frequently asked questions about shingles

What are the early signs of shingles rash?

Early signs of shingles rash include tingling, itching, and burning sensations, often followed by a red, painful rash.

Does shingles always cause a rash?

No, shingles doesn’t always cause a rash. Some people may experience other symptoms like pain, itching, or tingling without developing a visible rash.

How long does the shingles rash last?

The duration of the shingles rash can vary but typically lasts around 2 to 4 weeks.

A close up image of a shingles rash, that could be mistaken for another condition

Think you might have shingles?

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What is Pharmacy First?

Pharmacy First is a new NHS-funded scheme that helps you quickly get the advice & treatment you need from a pharmacy, without needing to see a GP.

The conditions covered by Pharmacy First are:

Video consultations & advice are free of charge. If you pay for prescriptions you will be charged the prescription rate of £9.65 per prescription item.