Can you fly if you have shingles?

With more than 50,000 cases of shingles in people over 70 each year, alone, many travellers are asking if it is okay to fly with the condition. Here we look at whether this condition could see you barred from boarding.

Man looking worried and in pain with shinglesAre you worried that shingles may prevent you from flying?  (Credit: Pxhere)

Can you fly when you have shingles?

It will most likely be okay to travel with shingles but you should check with your airline if you have visible symptoms.

You should also check with your doctor to make sure you’re well enough, and you can ask for a fit to fly letter from your doctor that could confirm you are not contagious.

Many cases of shingles are on covered areas, but it can affect your face and eyes, in which case a fit to fly letter would be a good idea to avoid issues at the check-in desk/

What is shingles and what causes it?

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus – this is the virus that causes chicken pox. The virus is an infection of a nerve and the skin around it.

It can cause blisters of the skin – a little like cold sores on your lip. It usually affects one part of the body, such as trunk, scalp or face etc,

Who can suffer from shingle?

Around 25% of people will have at least one episode of shingles in their life. If you have had chicken pox, the varicella-zoster virus stays inactive in your nervous system, but this can be reactivated as you get older and turn into in shingles.

Having a compromised immune system can cause shingles to occur. Reasons for this include:

  • Old age
  • Physical and emotional stress
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Chemotherapy

Is the virus infectious?

It is not possible to catch shingles from someone suffering from an episode, or from someone with chicken pox. It is possible to become infected with chicken pox by someone who has shingles if you have not already suffered from it.

How to ease the symptoms when flying?

Get to the doctor as soon as possible, as there is a treatment available to help shorten the episode of shingles.

You can also ease the symptoms when flying by following these tips:

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing
  • Apply a cool compress to the affected area
  • Ensure the rash is kept clean and dry
  • Apply calamine lotion to reduce itching

What the airlines say about flying with shingles

On the whole, if the blisters can be seen, airlines may not be happy to let you board if they have not scabbed over and dried. If visible, you are likely to require a fit to fly letter from your doctor.

The following information applies to airlines’ policy on shingles, if declared on their website. For guidance only. Contact your airline for confirmation if suffering from the virus.

Air New Zealand           

Travel if otherwise well and all lesions crusted over generally around 7 days (and covered where practicable)

British Airways

If lesions are covered with a dressing. You must be well with no fever and any pain must be well controlled.

easyJet

No specific information regarding shingles. Contact airline.

Jet2     

No specific information regarding shingles. Contact airline.

Norwegian       

No specific information regarding shingles. Contact airline.

Ryanair             

You will likely need a ‘fit to fly’ certificate if suffering from a conditions such as shingles. Contact the airline in advance.

TUI       

You may need a ‘fit to fly’ certificate if suffering from a conditions such as shingles. Contact the airline in advance.

Virgin Atlantic 

If lesions are covered with a dressing. You must be well with no fever and any pain must be well controlled

Wizz Air

No specific information regarding shingles. Contact airline.

 
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