When To See A Healthcare Provider
For most people, the effects of Shingrix are mild and short-term. In very rare cases, Shingrix can cause more serious side effects.
Seek urgent medical care if you experience signs of a severe allergic reaction a few minutes or hours after your second dose of Shingrix, such as:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Facial swelling
- Swelling in the throat or mouth
You should also let your healthcare provider know if your Shingrix side effects are severe or arent going away on their own.
What Should You Expect If You Get Shingles
Shingles can be a very painful condition. If you think you have the symptoms of shingles, see your healthcare provider right away. Starting antiviral medications early can ease your discomfort and end symptoms earlier.
A better approach to shingles is to take action and do what you can to lessen your risk of getting it. If you’ve never had shingles in the past, talk to your healthcare provider about getting the shingles vaccine. If youve never had chickenpox, talk with your healthcare provider about getting the chickenpox vaccine.
When Should I Get The Shingles Vaccine
The current shingles vaccine is a safe, easy, and more effective way to prevent shingles than the previous vaccine. In fact, it is over 90% effective at preventing shingles. Most adults age 50 and older should get vaccinated with the shingles vaccine, which is given in two doses. You can get the shingles vaccine at your doctors office and at some pharmacies.
You should get the shingles vaccine if you:
- Have already had chickenpox, the chickenpox vaccine, or shingles
- Received the prior shingles vaccine called Zostavax
- Dont remember having had chickenpox
Medicare Part D and private health insurance plans may cover some or all of the cost. Check with Medicare or your health plan to find out if it is covered.
You should not get vaccinated if you:
- Currently have shingles
- Are sick or have a fever
- Had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the shingles vaccine
If you are unsure about the above criteria or have other health concerns, talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine.
You May Like: Is Shingles A Sign Of Hiv
You Can Only Get Shingles If You’ve Had Chickenpox
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a condition caused by the same virus as chickenpox. About 350,000 Americans get chickenpox each year, which causes an itchy rash that lasts about a week. But even after your symptoms stop, the virus never leaves your body.
Most viruses are killed by your immune system, but the chickenpox virus hibernates inside your nerve roots, which are cords that transmit pain and itching sensations to your skin. You don’t feel any symptoms while the virus is dormant because your immune system stops the microbes from multiplying.
But as you age, your immune system tends to gets weaker. Like a collapsed dam, this weakened defense can let in a flood of viral microbes to your system, causing the virus to spread from your nerve root into your skin, and ultimately leading to a shingles outbreak.
Shingles The Symptoms And What Should You Do
Shingles is a condition that is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus. Once youve had chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in your nervous system and later in life can reactivate, and cause shingles. It is not fully known what causes the virus to reactivate, but this often occurs many years after the original chickenpox infection. Shingles tend to occur more often in older people and usually causes a painful rash on one side of the body. As older people are more likely to get shingles, the new national shingles immunisation programme for people aged 70 to 79 has been introduced by the Department of Health from September, to help protect those most at risk from shingles.
Read Also: Can Shingles Flare Up Again
Some People Are More Likely To Have A Second Outbreak
Experts don’t know exactly why the shingles virus reactivates, Adalja says, but it likely has to do with a weakened immune system. Some factors that may weaken your immune system and contribute to shingles outbreaks include:
- Old age: Most people get shingles over the age of 50 and your risk gets higher as you get older.
- Sex:Women over the age of 50 are also more likely to have a second shingles outbreak than men of the same age.
- Stress: Your body reacts to emotional stress by releasing a hormone called cortisol, and this hormone can make your immune system less effective.
- Chemotherapy: The medications used to treat cancer can make your immune system weaker.
- HIV and AIDS: Autoimmune disorders like HIV and AIDS can put you at much higher risk for shingles.
- Organ or bone marrow transplants: Before you get a transplant, you often need to take medication to weaken your immune system, so that your body will not reject the new tissue.
Is The Zostavax Vaccine Still Being Used
Yes. The CDC, however, recommends Zostavax for adults age 60 and older, but not routinely for people aged 50 to 59. Zostavax is given as a single-dose shot versus the two-dose shot for Shingrix. Zostavax is less effective than Shingrix in preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia .
You can consider Zostavax if you are allergic to Shingrix or if Shingrix is unavailable because of supply shortage and you want some immediate protection from a possible case of shingles and/or postherpetic neuralgia. Because its a weakened live vaccine, it may be dangerous if you have cancer, HIV, or take steroids, chemotherapy or other medications that suppress your immune system. Ask your healthcare provider if the Zostavax vaccine is an option for you.
Also Check: How To Calculate How Many Shingles I Need
Who Is At Risk For Getting Shingles
People who have had chickenpox who are more likely to develop shingles include those:
- With a weakened immune system .
- Over the age of 50.
- Who have been ill.
- Who have experienced trauma.
- Who are under stress.
The chickenpox virus doesnt leave your body after you have chickenpox. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of your spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. For the majority of people, the virus stays there quietly and doesn’t cause problems. Researchers aren’t always sure why the virus gets reactivated, but this typically occurs at times of stress.
You Can Get Shingles More Than Once
Most people will only have one outbreak of shingles in their lifetime, but “in rare cases, it can reactivate a second time and cause another episode of shingles,” says Amesh A. Adalja, MD, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
A second or third bout of shingles happens the same way as a first outbreak the virus reactivates and spreads to your skin. However, experts don’t know exactly what causes the virus to deactivate and reactivate.
A study published in 2011 in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that among more than 1600 shingles patients, about 5% experienced a second outbreak. It is possible to have a third outbreak of shingles, but this happens very rarely.
Keep in mind that if you’ve already had shingles once, you can’t get infected again from someone with shingles or chickenpox. The only way that you can have multiple bouts of shingles is through the reactivation of the dormant virus in your own body.
Don’t Miss: How Long Is The Shingles Vaccine Good For
Why Doesnt Having Chickenpox Earlier In Life Provide Immunity Against Having Shingles Later
After having chickenpox, your body doesnt rid your system of the virus. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of the spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. In most people, the virus simply stays there quietly and doesnt cause problems. Scientists arent always sure why the virus gets active again, but they know stress can be a cause.
What To Do If You Get Shingles A Second Time
“Second recurrences of shingles are indistinguishable from first episodes,” Adalja says.
If you do have a second shingles outbreak, the treatment will be the same as your original case, Adalja says.
To treat shingles, your doctor will prescribe antiviral medications such as acyclovir, valacyclovir or famciclovir. These medications can’t cure shingles, but they can help clear up your symptoms.
Also Check: Does Walmart Have The Shingles Vaccine
Is Treating Relapse The Same
The approaches to treating shingles and any relapse are the same. In the latter case, healthcare providers may become particularly interested in isolating the cause of the weakened immunity thats causing the recurrence. That said, there is no outright cure for this disease, so treatment focuses on managing symptoms.
These approaches include:
- Antiviral medications, such as Zovirax , Famvir , and Valtrex , can help, especially if given within 72 hours of symptom onset.
- Over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol or Motrin or Advil can also help manage discomfort and pain.
- Compresses and creams are among other approaches that help relieve itching these include applying wet compresses, using calamine lotion, and taking colloidal oatmeal baths.
Shingles The Facts And The Myths
Myth: You can catch shingles from someone with chickenpox.
Fact: Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus within your body, so you cannot catch shingles from anyone else. However, if someone has not had chickenpox they may catch it from someone who has shingles.
Myth: Shingles only affects old or ill people.
Fact: It is possible for anyone who has had chickenpox to develop shingles. The chance of developing shingles are very low before the age of 50, although young and otherwise healthy people do sometimes develop shingles. The immune system weakens with age and so the chance of developing shingles increases as we get older.
Myth: I cant get shingles because I cant remember having chickenpox.
Fact: If you have definitely never had chickenpox you cant develop shingles. However, some people dont know whether or not they had chickenpox as a child, because the infection may have been so mild it didnt cause any obvious symptoms. You can still develop shingles even if you have only had a very mild case of chickenpox.
Myth: Ive already had shingles so I cant get it again.
Fact: Unfortunately, some people can suffer from more than one episode of shingles. Why this happens is not fully understood, but as we age they immune system does weaken, which may explain why we are more likely to develop shingles the older we are and why it sometimes returns.
Where can I find more information?
Don’t Miss: How To Treat Shingles Blisters
Who Should Be Vaccinated With Shingrix
The Shingrix vaccine is recommended for those 50 years of age and older who are in good health.
You should get the Shingrix vaccine even if:
- Youve had shingles already.
- Youve been previously vaccinated with Zostavax . If youve been vaccinated with Zostavax, wait at least eight weeks before getting vaccinated with Shingrix.
- You dont know for sure if youve ever had chickenpox.
Ask your healthcare provider, who knows your entire health history if getting this vaccine is right for you.
Are There Natural Ways To Boost Your Immune System To Help Lessen The Chances Of Developing Shingles
Stress is a risk factor for developing shingles, so limiting your stress can be helpful. Try meditation, yoga or other relaxation methods.
Other things you can do include:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
- Dont smoke or use tobacco products.
These are all tips for an overall healthy lifestyle, not just for reducing your chance of getting shingles.
Who Should Not Be Vaccinated With Shingrix
You shouldnt receive the Shingrix vaccine if you:
- Have ever had a severe allergy to this vaccine or any ingredient in this vaccine.
- Are breastfeeding or pregnant.
- Currently have shingles.
- Are ill and have a high fever.
- Have tested negative for immunity to varicella-zoster virus .
Ask your healthcare provider if the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh any potential risks.
What Are The Symptoms Of Chickenpox
Symptoms are usually mild in children. But symptoms may be life-threatening to adults and people of any age with weak immune systems. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Fatigue and irritability one to two days before the rash begins
- Itchy rash on the trunk, face, scalp, under the armpits, on the upper arms and legs, and inside the mouth. The rash appears in several crops. It starts as flat red spots and progresses to raised red bumps that then become blisters.
The initial symptoms of chickenpox may resemble other infections. Once the skin rash and blisters happen, it is usually obvious to a healthcare provider that it is chickenpox. If a person who has been vaccinated against the disease is exposed, he or she may get a milder illness with less severe rash and mild or no fever. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Recommended Reading: How Long Does Shingles In The Eye Last
What Are The Complications Of Chickenpox
Complications can happen from chickenpox. They are more common in adults and people with weak immune systems. Complications may include:
- Secondary bacterial infections
- Cerebellar ataxia
- Transverse myelitis
- Reye syndrome. This is a serious condition marked by a group of symptoms that may affect all major systems or organs. Do not give aspirin to children with chickenpox. It increases the risk for Reye syndrome.
How Do I Get The Shingles Vaccination
Once you become eligible for the shingles vaccination, a GP or practice nurse will offer you the vaccine when you attend the surgery for general reasons.
You can have a shingles vaccine at the same time as most other vaccines. But try to leave 7 days between the shingles vaccine and a coronavirus vaccine, so that if you have any side effects you’ll know which vaccine they were from.
If you are worried that you may miss out on the shingles vaccination, contact your GP surgery to arrange an appointment to have the vaccine.
You May Like: Types Of Wood Shingle Siding
Why Do I Need Two Doses Of Shingrix
In addition to a painful rash, shingles can lead to serious health complications like PHN, pneumonia, vision loss, hearing problems, and encephalitis . Research indicates that about 1% to 4% of people with shingles will be hospitalized.
Two doses of Shingrix offer effective protection against shingles and related complications for at least seven years. Among healthy adults ages 50-69, Shingrix is more than 90% effective in preventing PHN when two doses are administered. Among adults ages 70 and older, it is 89% effective.
Who Should Not Get The Vaccine
It is safe for most people to get two doses of Shingrix. However, you should talk to your healthcare provider before getting the shingles vaccine if:
- You are pregnant
- You have severe allergies to any of the Shingrix ingredients
- You have ever experienced a severe allergic reaction to Shingrix
If you have a mild sickness, such as a cold, its usually safe to get the shingles vaccine. If you are moderately or severely ill, you should wait until you feel better to get your next dose of Shingrix.
You should still get the shingles vaccine if you dont remember having the chickenpox virus in the past and if youve had shingles previously. Shingrix can protect you against developing shingles again in the future.
Also Check: What Antiviral Medication Is Used For Shingles
How Is Shingles Diagnosed And Treated
If you think you might have shingles, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Its important to see your doctor no later than three days after the rash starts. The doctor will confirm whether you have shingles and can make a treatment plan. Most cases can be diagnosed from a visual examination. If you have a condition that weakens the immune system, your doctor may order a shingles test. Although there is no cure for shingles, early treatment with antiviral medications can help the blisters clear up faster and limit severe pain. Shingles can often be treated at home.
When To Seek Medical Advice
Shingles is not usually serious, but you should see your GP as soon as possible if you recognise the symptoms. Early treatment may help reduce the severity of your symptoms and the risk of developing complications.
You should also see your GP if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system and you think you have been exposed to someone with chickenpox or shingles and haven’t had chickenpox before.
Recommended Reading: Does Medicare Part D Cover The Shingles Vaccine
When Should I See A Doctor
See your doctor at the first sign of shingles. Getting treated early can help it go away faster and may help you avoid related problems. For instance, shingles on the face can cause hearing or sight problems, including blindness.
If you have a weak immune system and can’t get the vaccine, early treatment is your best defense against shingles.
Sometimes what seems to be shingles is really herpes simplex. Though it usually appears as “cold sores” around the mouth or genitals, this form of herpes can show up elsewhere. A different treatment is used to clear it up. Your doctor can do tests, such as a viral culture, to confirm whether you have shingles and to get you the right treatment.
How Do You Catch Shingles
You do not “catch” shingles it comes on when there’s a reactivation of chickenpox virus that’s already in your body.
After you’ve recovered from chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus lies dormant in your nerve cells and can reactivate at a later stage when your immune system is weakened.
Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles.
You May Like: Does Shingles Pain Ever Go Away