Simon Bentley
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Simon has over 15 years experience in the insurance industry and looks after our website, making sure our customers have the best experience possible!

7 min read

A guide on travelling with chickenpox or shingles

Chickenpox and shingles are common infections that affect both children and adults across the country.

Given the fairly obtrusive nature of both infections in terms of their physical impact on the body – it’s worth seriously considering the nature of you or your child’s condition before travelling abroad.

That being said, in many cases – it’s still perfectly possible to travel depending on certain circumstances.

Besides the actual severity of the condition, this includes things like specialist advice from your GP, specific airline requirements – as well as access to adequate travel insurance cover.

Can you fly with chickenpox?

Yes, you can fly with chickenpox – however you absolutely must check your airline’s policy beforehand.

You can’t predict or expect an outbreak of chickenpox. In most cases they just appear – and if this happens in the days leading up to a trip that you’ve already booked and paid for, you might be left feeling desperately unlucky.

However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your child (or any adults in your party) won’t be able to fly. Each airline varies in terms of their permissions and limitations for all kinds of different medical conditions – including flying with chickenpox.

Airlines have the right to refuse entry on board an aircraft for passengers who are unwell. In the case of chickenpox, if the skin is visibly blistered – refusal is quite likely.

Many airlines operate on the basis that somebody with infected with chickenpox at a fairly contagious stage is a risk for other passengers, and as such it would be irresponsible on their part to allow that person to come on board.

If the blisters have scabbed over – the likelihood is that you’ll still be allowed on board (but again, always check with your airline policy beforehand).

When is chickenpox most contagious?

Chickenpox is usually at its most contagious in the first 2-5 days of symptoms.

If this timeframe interferes with the date on which you intend to travel abroad, the most sensible thing to do is to consult your GP right away. Your doctor is the ideal person to give you the most appropriate guidance on how you move forward with your travel plans.

If you’ve purchased a travel insurance policy ahead of your trip, you may have a cancellation benefit that reaches a certain limit – in which case, you’ll be able to make a claim if you think you’ll be unable to travel.

If your doctor gives their blessing for you to travel – you might want to explore the possibility of purchasing a separate policy to include specialist chickenpox cover.

How long does chickenpox last?

The time period over which chickenpox symptoms affect the body varies from case to case.

Rashes can start to appear on the surface of the skin within the first 2 days of actually contracting the virus. Usually, it takes between 10 days and 2 weeks for chickenpox blisters to scab over. This is usually the signal that the chickenpox is no longer at a contagious stage.

Although these timeframes are only broad guidelines, they definitely shouldn’t be ignored and you should bear them in mind as far as benchmarking whether the period of time where symptoms are experienced will overlap into your holiday.

Can you fly with shingles?

Like chickenpox, it’s usually fine to travel with shingles – provided your doctor passes you as fit to fly and you meet the requirements of your airline’s health and safety policy.

Shingles can often be restrictive and painful. Therefore, you need to think long and hard about proceeding with your travel plans as a result. As long as you feel well enough, and your GP deems that your condition has passed the most advanced contagious stage – it should be fine to travel.

However, checking with your airline beforehand is a must. Whether that means you check online or even give them a call to discuss their policy, it’s wise to do you due diligence before you turn up at the airport.

The last thing you want is to get turned away at the aircraft cabin door before boarding.

How long are you contagious with shingles?

Shingles cannot actually be passed on from one person to another – but the virus itself can.

Somebody with shingles can actually cause someone else to contract the virus that results in chickenpox. This can happen if the person with shingles comes into contact with a person who has never had chickenpox before.

Shingles is typically less contagious than chickenpox. This is usually because the shingles rash originates around the centre of the body (so it’s more covered up).

However, you’re arguably most contagious with shingles when the skin is blistered over and fluid is discharging from the rash. However, when the rash scabs over, you’re far less likely to pass the virus on to somebody else.

It normally takes around a week to 10 days for the scabs to dry up. Even if you’re on holiday in a warm climate, it’s still important to keep the rash as covered as possible – not just to minimise the chances of spreading infection, but also to protect this vulnerable area of skin from any sun damage.

How long does it take to recover from shingles?

Most people recover from shingles after about 3 weeks. It’s very rare for symptoms to persist over 5 weeks.

Either way, this is still a fairly long time to be unwell – especially if you’ve got a holiday on the horizon.

It’s worth remembering that although it may take a while for the rash to clear up, the symptoms progressively get more and more manageable as time progresses. So, it’s still possible to travel provided your doctor gives you the green light to do so.

You’ll also want to explore the possibility of specialist shingles travel insurance too, just so that you're covered should any issues arise on your trip.

Travel insurance for chickenpox/shingles

If you or your child is diagnosed with chickenpox before you travel, there are insurance providers out there who provide specific cover for chickenpox. The same also applies to shingles.

With Medical Travel Compared, you can compare quotes for specialist medical travel insurance for a range of different conditions in a matter of minutes.

All you need to do is declare chickenpox or shingles when you go through the quote application. Then we can provide you with a list of quotes from the most relevant providers – offering comprehensive cover.

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