Do You Need The Shingles Vaccine
Shingles is a painful, viral infection that causes an itchy, red rash on one side of the body, and its caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Eventually, the blisters of the rash will form scabs in around 10 days before clearing up in roughly four weeks.
While its not a life-threatening infection, if its not treated in a timely manner, it can lead to complications that cause pain long after the rash has cleared, a condition called postherpetic neuralgia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control 1 out of every 3 people will develop shingles during their lives. This equates to one million cases of shingles annually in the United States.
Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles.
The good news is that the pain and inconvenience of shingles can be easily avoided by being vaccinated.
However, there is often some confusion around this immunization, centering around who should receive the vaccine and how often it should be administered. Well break down important facts about shingles and the vaccine so you can be prepared to make an informed choice.
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.
What Is The Treatment For Shingles And Recurring Shingles
The treatment for recurring shingles is the same as for shingles.
If you suspect that you have recurring shingles, see your doctor as soon as possible. Taking an antiviral drug like acyclovir , valacyclovir , or famciclovir can reduce the severity of shingles and reduce how long it lasts.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications to lessen your pain and help you sleep. These include the following:
- Skin patches with the painkiller lidocaine are available. You can wear them on the affected area for a specific length of time.
- Skin patches that have 8 percent capsaicin, an extract of chili peppers, are available. Some people cannot tolerate the burning sensation, even though the skin is numb before the patch is put on.
- Antiseizure drugs, such as gabapentin and pregabalin , reduce pain by reducing the nerve activity. They have side effects that may limit the amount of the drug that you can tolerate.
- Antidepressants such as duloxetine and nortriptyline can be useful, especially to relieve pain and allow you to sleep.
- Opioid painkillers can relieve pain, but they have side effects, such as dizziness and confusion, and they can become addictive.
You can also take cool baths with colloidal oatmeal to ease the itching, or apply cold compresses to the affected area. Rest and stress reduction are also important.
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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.
Know Your Risk Of Getting Shingles And Complications
About 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles during their lifetime.
If youve had chickenpox, you are at risk for shingles. More than 99% of Americans born before 1980 have had chickenpox, even if they dont remember it.
Your risk of getting shingles and having serious complications increases as you get older.
About 1 in 10 people who get shingles develop nerve pain that lasts for months or years after the rash goes away. This is called postherpetic neuralgia and is the most common complication of shingles.
Shingles may lead to other serious complications involving the eye, including blindness. Very rarely, it can also lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, brain inflammation or death.
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Who Should Get Shingrix
Adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months. Adults 19 years and older who have or will have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy should also get two doses of Shingrix. If needed, people with weakened immune systems can get the second dose 1 to 2 months after the first.
You should get Shingrix even if in the past you:
- Received varicella vaccine
There is no maximum age for getting Shingrix.
If you had shingles in the past, Shingrix can help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after having shingles before you can receive Shingrix, but generally you should make sure the shingles rash has gone away before getting vaccinated.
Chickenpox and shingles are related because they are caused by the same virus . After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body. It can reactivate years later and cause shingles.
Shingrix is available in doctors offices and pharmacies.
If you have questions about Shingrix, talk with your healthcare provider.
* A shingles vaccine called zoster vaccine live is no longer available for use in the United States, as of November 18, 2020. If you had Zostavax in the past, you should still get Shingrix. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best time to get Shingrix.
Where Does Shingles Come From
When you have chickenpox as a child, your body fights off the varicella-zoster virus and the physical signs of chickenpox fade away, but the virus always remains in your body. In adulthood, sometimes the virus becomes active again. This time, the varicella-zoster virus makes its second appearance in the form of shingles.
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What Are The Side Effects Of The Shingles Vaccine
Most side effects of the shingles vaccine are mild and typically last only 2 to 3 days.
One of the most common side effects of the shingles vaccine is an injection site reaction. This can include redness, swelling, or soreness where you got your shot.
Other side effects can include:
- muscle aches and pains
Side effects felt throughout your body are typically more common after receiving the second and booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Like the shingles vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine side effects typically last only a couple of days.
When COVID-19 and flu circulate at the same time, it has the potential to cause many people to become ill and overburden the healthcare system. As such, its essential to receive both COVID-19 and flu vaccines.
Its safe to receive your COVID-19 and flu vaccine at the same time.
Though were still learning more about giving the COVID-19 vaccine with other vaccines, a found no safety concerns when the COVID-19 and flu vaccine were given at the same time. Also, participants produced expected antibody responses to both vaccines.
The CDC that all people ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine. The flu vaccine can help prevent illness and reduce the risk of serious flu-related complications in vulnerable individuals, such as:
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.
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Why Is It Important To Receive A Vaccination Against Shingles
About 33% of adults in the U.S. will develop shingles at some point in their lives. Shingles can cause painful blisters, a rash, chills, and fever, among other symptoms. Many people who have shingles later develop PHN, which can cause long-lasting pain that is difficult to treat.
Getting the Shingrix vaccine can help individuals avoid shingles and PHN and help prevent shingles from spreading to vulnerable people.
Can Shingles Be Prevented
There are 2 vaccines available to reduce the likelihood of developing shingles, Zostavax and Shingrix. If you are over 50, you can talk to your doctor about whether you need it. It is recommended for everyone over 60 and is given free of charge in Australia to people aged 70 to 79.
Vaccination will not guarantee that you will not get shingles, but it will reduce your chance of developing the condition. The vaccine used to protect against shingles is not the same as the vaccine used to protect against chickenpox. Read more about the chickenpox vaccine here.
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Risk Factors For Shingles Recurrence
Moore and colleagues studied the medical records of nearly 1,700 people with a confirmed shingles attack from 1996 to 2001. Only 8% had compromised immune systems, she says. But 95 of them suffered 105 recurrences by the end of 2007.
“Clearly most recurrent attacks are occurring in people with healthy immune systems,” she says.
The time between attacks ranged from 96 days to 10 years.
- 2.8 times more likely in people with shingles-associated pain for 30 or more days during the initial episode
- 4.8 times more likely in people with shingles-associated pain for 60 or more days during the initial episode
- 60% more likely in women than men
- 40% more likely in people who were 50 or older when they had their initial attack
“Still, most recurrences occurred in people with none of these risk factors,” Moore says.
The only way to protect yourself against shingles is to be vaccinated, she adds. The vaccine, known as Zostavax, was approved for use in adults ages 60 and older after studies showed it prevents shingles about half the time.
IDSA spokesman Aaron Glatt, MD, of the New Island Hospital in Bethpage, N.Y., tells WebMD that he was “surprised” at the high rate of recurrence.
“We knew you could get another episode, but we didn’t know the risk was so great,” he says.
Merck, the company that makes the vaccine, funded the study.
People Who Shouldnt Have The Vaccination
There are 2 shingles vaccines available. One contains a weakened version of the live shingles virus.
The live vaccine is the one that is routinely used in the UK but people who have weakened immune systems, for example due to cancer treatment, should not have it. They should have the inactivated shingles vaccine. Your doctor will advise whether this applies to you. Further information is available on the Shingrix vaccine.
If youve had a severe reaction to any of the substances that go into the vaccine, you shouldnt have it. Again, your GP will advise you.
The live shingles vaccine used in the UK contains porcine gelatine. Some people may not want this vaccine but it is the recommended vaccine unless you cannot have it because you have a weakened immune system.
If you have the Zostavax vaccine, you will just need one injection. If you are not eligible for the live vaccine, you will need 2 doses of the Shingrix vaccine 2 months apart to give you the best protection. Once your course is completed, you will not need any more shingles vaccines.
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How Is Shingles Diagnosed
Doctor usually can diagnose shingles by looking at the rash. Rarely, a doctor may send a small sample of infected skin to be checked in a laboratory.
If you think your child might have shingles, call your doctor. If your child might have shingles on the face, it’s important to get a doctor’s help right away to keep the infection from spreading to the eyes.
Who Shouldnt Get The Shingles Vaccine
You shouldnt receive the shingles vaccine if:
- Youve had a previous severe allergic reaction to Shingrix or any of its ingredients.
- Youre pregnant or breastfeeding.
- You have no immunity to chickenpox, which means you should get the chickenpox vaccine instead.
Having a mild illness like a cold isnt a reason to not get your shingles vaccine.
However, if you have a moderate to severe illness or a fever of 101.3 or higher, you should recover before getting your shingles vaccine.
state that the COVID-19 vaccine may be given without regard to the timing of other vaccines.
This means you dont have to wait to receive your COVID-19 and shingles vaccinations.
In fact, you can get your COVID-19 vaccine and shingles vaccine at the same time. If you choose to do this, make sure to receive your injections at two different sites.
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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.
How To Avoid Getting Shingles More Than Once
Getting the shingles vaccine protects you against shinglesand from a shingles recurrence too.
Zostavax, approved in 2006, was once the only shingles vaccine available to older individuals. As of November 2020, Zostavax is no longer available in the US.
Another vaccine, Shingrix, was approved in 2017 by the FDA for adults 50 and older, and its said to be over 90% effective, according to the CDC.
This new vaccine is a very important one for all of us to consider, Dr. Cutler said. In my practice we routinely recommend this vaccine to everyone over 50.
With the possibility that shingles can recur, experts urge anyone who has had shingles to be vaccinated as well. I believe that its imperative that you work with your health care provider to get vaccinated as soon as youre in this age range or have had shingles, Dr. Cutler said.
Shingrix is given in two doses, scheduled two to six months apart. Its important to note that you should also get Shingrix even if you had Zostavax, the older shingles vaccine, Dr. Cutler added. You should also get it if you dont know if you had chickenpox as a child.
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Do You Need To Stay Away From Children People Who Are Pregnant Have Cancer Or Anyone With A Weak Immune System After You Get The Zostavax Vaccine
According to the CDC, its safe to be around babies and young children, pregnant women or anyone with a weakened immune system after you get the Zostavax vaccine. Even though the Zostavax vaccine contains a weakened live varicella-zoster virus, the CDC says theres no documented case of a person getting chickenpox from someone who has received the Zostavax vaccine. And remember: You cant get shingles unless youve already had chickenpox.
When You Should See Your Doctor
Go to your doctor as soon as you see the rash, as treatment is most effective if its started early.
Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medicine, which may help you recover faster and will reduce the chance that the pain will last for a long time.
Your doctor may also give you medicine for pain relief.
See your doctor again if:
- you get any blisters on your face
- your fever or pain gets worse
- your neck gets stiff, you cant hear properly or you feel less able to think clearly
- you develop new symptoms such as drooping or weakness to one side of your face
- the blisters show signs of infection or if you see milky yellow drainage from the blister sites.
Call Healthline if you are unsure what you should do.
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Are Chickenpox And Shingles Serious Illnesses
The symptoms may be more severe in newborns, persons with weakened immune systems, and adults. Serious problems can occur and may include pneumonia , brain infection , and kidney problems. Many people are not aware that before a vaccine was available, approximately 10,600 persons were hospitalized, and 100 to 150 died, as a result of chickenpox in the U.S. every year.
How Often Does Shingles Return
Experts don’t know exactly how many people get shingles more than once. They do know it comes back more often in people with weakened immune systems.
If your immune system is healthy:
- In the first several years, your chances of having shingles again are lower than it is for people who have never had shingles.
- Over time, your chances of a second bout go up. One study found that within 7 years, the odds of getting it again may be almost 5%. That’s about the same as the odds of getting shingles the first time.
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