How Can You Protect from Shingles?

Shingles is a debilitating disease that is closely related to chickenpox as the two are caused by the same virus; varicella-zoster. It is described as painful, fluid-oozing blisters and lesions that often result to burning sensation and localized pain. It can last from 5 to 7 days depending on the severity. Since the virus targets the nervous system of the body, shingles patients can experience tremendous pain as the nerves gets aggravated.

The main reason behind shingles remains uncertain, but it is most common to people who are over 60 years of age as well as those with significantly weak immune system and undergone treatment like chemotherapy, radiation, and transplant. People who have a history of chickenpox are also at risk of acquiring the disease. Once a person had chickenpox, the virus will be at a latent state for years and can remain inactive. It can be reactivated later in life which often result to shingles.

Symptoms often start with itching and indescribable pain followed by a fever, headaches, and stomach pain. Photophobia, malaise, and other flu-like symptoms are commonly felt by a shingles patient. Subsequently, rashes will start to appear which will eventually scab after a couple of days. Shingles are temporary. Pain and discomfort usually clears up within weeks. But in some cases, shingles may have lasting effects and complications. Post-herpetic neuralgia, encephalitis, varicella pneumonia, aseptic meningitis, blindness, and hearing problems are some of the common complications that comes along with shingles.20160406-How-Contagious

How Contagious is Shingles?

Fortunately, shingles isn’t contagious. However, the virus that causes shingles can be easily transmitted to a person who hasn’t had chickenpox before or haven’t received a chickenpox vaccine. But the person who gets direct contact with the virus will only develop chickenpox and not necessarily shingles.

Shingles transmittance comes in stages and is less contagious compared to chickenpox. After the appearance of symptoms, rashes will start to surface on a certain part of the body. When blisters starts to form, skin lesions would start to emit the virus. This implies that a person with the disease is only contagious after the blister-like rashes appear. Additionally, fresh and open blisters are the ones capable of passing shingles from one person to another.

Normally, the virus is communicable 1-2 days after the appearance of blisters and a week after lesions start to materialize.

Prior to the emergence of symptoms and if the rashes are covered, the person with shingles isn’t infectious. Additionally, after the rash develops into crusts, the person is no longer contagious. Studies also show that shingles in postherpetic stage (a complication wherein pain is felt even after the rash is gone) aren’t infectious. Additionally, varicella-zoster aren’t easily spread through coughing, sneezing or casual contact unlike other illness. Direct contact to the oozing blister is what puts people at risk to getting the virus.


Preventive Measures

Cure has yet to be discovered but there are options available in order to relieve the symptoms and reduce the risks of developing complications.

  • Localized pain is highly indicative of shingles. As soon as pain is felt on one side of the body and rashes start to arise, medical care should be sought in order to lessen the symptoms and reduce the risks of nerve-related complication.
  • Antiviral medication are often given to shorten the length of having the symptoms and disease itself and lower the severity of shingles. But thIS medication should be taken at least 72 hours after symptoms start to be apparent.
  • Vaccination should be taken to lessen the chances of developing shingles. There is chickenpox vaccine available for kids and shingles vaccine to prevent people over 60 years old from developing shingles and the complication that comes with it.
  • If a shingles outbreak occurs, it is best to cover the blisters in order to avoid spreading the virus. Fluid-absorbent cover up is highly recommended but must be properly disposed after use.
  • Taking a bath with warm or cool water and applying soothing oil or lotion can also help alleviate the itching.
  • A person with shingles must be quarantined for at least 5 days after blisters first appear particularly to people who are susceptible to acquiring the disease.

Shingles can cause a serious problem among people especially those at their most vulnerable stage in life. Most of shingles patients involve older adults since they have vulnerable immune system that the virus can easily penetrate. A life-threatening disease like shingles should be taken for granted. Precautionary measures must be taken in order to avert the threats that shingles poses. After all, a life without pain is a life worth having. So why let the pain take over if you can prevent it from changing your life?

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