Who Is At Risk For Shingles?
Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash that is caused by the same virus as chickenpox. Normally people only get shingles once. Many people are at risk for shingles, although only about 10% of the population develops it.
Who is at risk of developing shingles?
You may be at risk for shingles if you fit one of the following categories:
- If you have had chickenpox you can get shingles. The chickenpox virus, varicella zoster, hides in the spinal cord area. Later on in life it can reemerge and cause a shingles outbreak.
- If you are over the age of 60 your risk is 10 times that of a child under the age of ten. Over 50% of all shingles cases occur in people over the age of 60.
- If your immune system is compromised in some way, you will be more vulnerable to shingles. When the immune system is no longer able to suppress the herpes zoster virus, it can migrate to the skin. Examples of people with compromised immune systems are people receiving anti-rejection drugs for an organ transplant, people receiving chemotherapy, and people with immune deficiencies such as HIV.
Who is at risk for chickenpox?
Since the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles is one and the same, a chickenpox infection can result from contact with a person experiencing a shingles outbreak. If you have shingles, you should try to avoid:
- Anyone who has never had chickenpox
- People with weakened immune systems
- Newborn babies
- Pregnant women, because chickenpox is dangerous to babies in utero
How do I treat shingles?
Fortunately, there are many treatment options available to shingles sufferers. There are two types of treatment. One type focuses on alleviating the pain, and the other focuses on helping the body heal the outbreak more quickly.
There are many different options to alleviate the pain caused by shingles. First of all, do not scratch or break the blisters. Allow them to heal on their own. Scratching may cause infection. Here are some common examples of home remedies that are effective at alleviating shingles symptoms:
- Over the counter pain relievers (be careful not to overdose, as these may have negative side effects, including stomach bleeding. Consult your health practitioner before taking pain relievers).
- Calamine, capsaicin, or aloe lotion
- Wash the blisters twice per day with warm soapy water. Do not cover them with bandages; allow the blisters to breathe as this will help them heal faster.
- Cool compresses
- Cool baths with finely ground oatmeal
The body will be able to heal itself more quickly if you boost your immune system. There are several methods that work best when combined.
- A healthy diet is very important. Be sure to get plenty of vegetables and omega 3 fatty acids (found in cold water oily fish and flax).
- Exercise is also important for maintaining health and vitality. Take short walks each day to remain healthy.