If you’ve had chicken pox, the shingles virus (herpes zoster) is lying dormant in your nervous system. Many things can trigger a shingles outbreak, especially stress and medical treatments that weaken the immune system. Early signs of shingles may include pain, itchiness, upset stomach, tingling, headache and fever. Anywhere from one to five days later a rash develops, usually on one side of the trunk, followed by blisters. There are many myths associated with shingles, including these six common misconceptions:
- Shingles only happens to elderly people. Shingles can occur in anyone at any age who has had chicken pox. However, the risk for developing shingles does increase with age, especially if you have a lowered immune system.
- I’m safe, I had the vaccine. The shingles vaccine reduces your risk by about half, but you may still develop shingles. The vaccine also helps reduce the risk of serious complications if you contract shingles.
- Shingles is contagious. Shingles is caused by the chicken pox virus, so everyone who has ever had the chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccine has the virus in their system. Shingles is less contagious than chicken pox, and if the rash is covered the chances of developing shingles from exposure is minimal. If you are exposed to shingles and have not had chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccine, you could catch chicken pox.
- If you haven’t had chicken pox, you can’t get shingles. If you’ve had the chicken pox vaccine, the virus is still in your system. You won’t get chicken pox, but there is a slight chance you could get shingles.
- Once you get shingles, you have to wait for it to go away. If you contact your doctor within three days of developing symptoms, antiviral medication may help.
- When the symptoms are gone, the virus is too. Because the shingles virus is in your nerves, the pain could go on for years. It can even travel to your eye. In addition, unlike chicken pox you can develop shingles more than once. Getting the shingles vaccine will lower your chances of getting it again.
Treatment for shingles includes several antiviral medications to reduce the severity such as Zorivax®, Valtrex® and Famvir®.Your doctor may prescribe medication to help with the pain, have you use over-the-counter pain relievers or topical ointment like capsaicin. These medications are only effective if your symptoms are caught within the first three days, so be sure to contact your doctor at the first sign of shingles.
The team at Approved Home Health is ready to offer assistance when you need help caring for your elderly parent. Call us today at 941-870-8740 for a complimentary nursing evaluation.
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