Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

7 min read

Travelling with chickenpox or shingles

Chickenpox and shingles are pretty common in both children and adults. As much as it can be a frustrating infection to have it’s certainly manageable and you can (thankfully) still travel.

Given the fairly obtrusive nature of both infections because of their physical impact on your body, it’s worth having a serious think about the nature of you or your child’s condition before going on holiday abroad.

But don’t worry too much, in many cases it’s still perfectly possible to travel depending on your 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 must check your airline’s policy beforehand to double-check their rules, it’s likely every airline will have a difference stance on the matter.

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

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 because the infection is still contagious. Many airlines operate on the basis that somebody who is 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.

The usual policy is that you will be let aboard 7 days after the last of the spots have crusted/ scabbed over and you have a letter of health from your GP. So, if the blisters have scabbed over, the likelihood is that you’ll be allowed on board (but again, always check with your airline policy beforehand, just to be on the safe side).

So 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, and you have cancellation cover, you may be covered for the cost of your trip if you are medically unable to travel. Always check with your travel insurance provider to see what you are covered for.

Plane flying during sunset

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 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, it’s a good idea to bear these in mind when it comes to 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 as long as 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. So, 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 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 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 most contagious with shingles when the skin is blistered 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.

Bali rice fields

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.

Do I need to tell you about my chickenpox or shingles when getting travel insurance cover?

When getting a quote with us we’ll ask a few short questions about your health history, including whether you visited a medical professional, or hospital within the last 2 years, which would include if it was for chickenpox or shingles. 

You’ll then be able to easily add your condition to your quote. We may ask a few follow up questions about your treatment just so we can really understand your circumstances and get a good picture of your overall health.

We’ll then show your quotes from travel insurance providers which will include cover for any health conditions you’ve told us about – that way – if your condition flares up before you go away, or causes you trouble whilst you are on holiday, you’ll be protected.

You can find out more about how to tell us about your health condition in this guide here. 

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