Shingles is a disease that becomes more common as we grow older. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After recovering from chickenpox, most likely in childhood, the virus remains in the body for years, only to become shingles later in life.
Signs and Symptoms
The first sign of shingles can be indistinct. You may experience isolated itching, tingling, pain, or numbness in a specific part of the body. It can also start as a headache, fever, or upset stomach. But then the virus develops into a distinctive, painful rash consisting of fluid-filled blisters.
For most people, shingles last for approximately 10 days, then scab over, and heal within a couple of weeks. It can be very uncomfortable, and even unbearable!
Who is most susceptible to shingles?
If you have had chickenpox you can get shingles, and the risk increases as we get older. Some people are at greater risk if they have a weakened immune system, or take medications that affect the immune system.Many doctors believe that stress and depression also can increase that risk.
There are antiviral medications available to reduce the length and severity of the disease. These are most effective if taken immediately after the rash appears. Prescription and over-the-counter pain medications, cool compresses, lotions, and other topical treatments can also alleviate discomfort.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that almost all people age 50 and older get the vaccine for shingles. A doctor might recommend that some patients get it at a younger age. People with certain allergies should not get the vaccine. This is an important conversation and decision made between you and your doctor.
The CDC reports that getting vaccinated helps prevent a future occurrence of the disease. It should not be administered until shingles have cleared up.
You should get the Shingrix vaccine even if you already got the Zostavax vaccine – although you should wait at least eight weeks from the time you received Zostavax to get the Shingrix shot.
Covid-19 and the Shingles Vaccine
Doctors report that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many have neglected their routine healthcare, fearing that it might be unsafe to go to a clinic or the doctor’s office. It is still important to keep up with your routine healthcare, and this includes vaccines. Ask your doctor if you should receive the shingles vaccine at this time.
Does a mask protect from shingles?
Fewer cases of the flu and common cold have been reported this year. This is largely accredited to people wearing masks and social distancing. But when it comes to shingles, a mask won’t help you. This virus comes from within your own body. So, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated, it can be the best way to lower your risk of the disease.
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