Shingles: The Sleeping Virus

How much do you know about shingles? Before I started doing my research for this blog, I thought I had a solid understanding of shingles. I knew it was related to chickenpox and that’s it more common among older adults. But I had no idea that nearly 1 in 3 Americans will get shingles and that even children can get it. It’s true! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says so!

Now that I have completely blown your mind with these interesting facts, you are probably wondering what the heck is shingles and can I get it?

What is shingles?
Shingles is basically a painful rash that is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox before, the virus (varicella zoster) will remain inactive in your body and possibly resurge later in life as shingles. It isn’t life-threatening, but it can be very uncomfortable.

What are the symptoms?
The rash can appear anywhere on your body, but it most commonly occurs as a cluster of blisters on the left or right side of your torso. Other symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach

Who can get shingles?
Anyone who has had chickenpox or got the chickenpox vaccine can get shingles. But your chances of getting shingles do increase as you get older. The CDC reports that nearly half of all people who get shingles are over the age of 60. Other risk factors for shingles can include:

  • Having a weakened immune system from conditions such as HIV/AIDS and cancer
  • Taking certain meds such as steroids and the drugs that prevent your body’s rejection of transplanted organs

How does it spread?
The only way you can get shingles is if you’ve had chickenpox before. You cannot “catch” shingles from someone else.

But, if you’ve never had chickenpox, coming into contact with the shingles rash may cause chickenpox. To prevent this from happening, anyone with shingles should:

  • Keep their rash covered
  • Avoid scratching or touching the rash
  • Wash their hands regularly

Is it preventable?
The only way to protect yourself from shingles is to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 60 get the shingles vaccine, even if you have had shingles before. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about the shingles vaccine or would like to get it.

How can I get rid of it?
Since shingles is caused by a virus, there is no magic pill or treatment to get rid of it. But your doctor can give you some medication to speed up the healing process. To help with the pain, your doctor may also prescribe some pain medications and soothing creams for the rash.

The Mayo Clinic says that shingles usually lasts between two and six weeks. It is possible that you can get shingles more than once, but most people usually just get it the one time.

Do you have any more questions about shingles that I haven’t answered? Write them in the comments below!


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