VaccineMany older adults suffer from flare ups of the irritating virus called Varicella-Zoster, otherwise known as shingles. Irritating as it may be, shingles is not contagious to most adults because the majority of them have had chickenpox. However, children are at a higher risk for contracting the virus. If your grandchildren have yet to endure the experience of midnight oatmeal baths and sleeping with oven mitts to tame the spotted, itchy miserableness that is chickenpox, then you should avoid contact with them until you have fully healed. In addition to children, you should also stay away from any pregnant women and folks who might have a weakened immune system until your blisters scab over.

If you’ve never heard of small children suffering from shingles, that’s because infecting a child will not give them shingles; instead, they will develop chickenpox. A bit confusing, I know.You see, shingles and chickenpox are the same virus (Varicella-Zoster). However, when someone is first exposed to the virus it presents itself as chickenpox. After the chickenpox outbreak has subsided, the virus lies dormant in nerve tissue for many years. When this virus is woken up by a trigger, it presents itself in the form of shingles. For those not familiar, shingles appears as a red rash that begins a few days after painful itching and tingling usually around the torso area, but can also materialize on the eye or face. Blisters with fluid then form in the area that break open and crust over within a few days. Fever, fatigue, and achiness are also common symptoms of shingles.

Triggers of shingles

What are common triggers of shingles? Though triggers might differ from person to person, shingles is common in those over 50 years old with weakened immune systems due to disease, medications, cancer treatments or stress. Although there is no cure for shingles, there is treatment that can reduce healing time and complications caused by outbreaks. It is always important to see your doctor for treatment to avoid any complications or infections. Your doctor might also be able to recommend a vaccination.

Vaccinations for shingles

There are currently two different vaccinations available for Varicella-Zoster – one for chickenpox and one for shingles. Varivax is now a common immunization for children to prevent chickenpox. However, it can also be used on adults who have never had chickenpox. Zostavax has been approved for adults over 50 to prevent shingles. While neither vaccine guarantees you will stay chickenpox or shingles free, they can likely guarantee a less severe outbreak and work well as a preventative strategy against the virus. All options should be discussed with your doctor.

Information taken from:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/basics/causes/con-20019574

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education
Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living

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