By Dr. Victoria Niederhauser
I’ll bet many of you remember soaking in oatmeal baths, dotting on calamine® lotion or taking antihistamines hoping for some relief from the itch of chicken pox.
Those memories may be in the distant past, but the virus, known as varicella zoster virus (VZV), remains in your body long after pox heal.
In about one out of every three people, VZV will reactivate later in life and cause a condition called herpes zoster—more commonly called shingles.
Shingles cause a blister-like rash on one section of the body, referred to as a dermatone. The rash usually develops on one side of the face or back and can be itchy, very painful and last two to four weeks.
It’s also common for pain to persist in the area of the rash long after it disappears (weeks or months), known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN).
Along with the rash, some people experience headaches, chills, fever and/or stomach pains.
So, who gets shingles? People whose immune systems are not working well are susceptible to shingles at any age.
In addition, as we get older, our risk of getting shingles increases. In fact, half of shingles cases occur in people over the age of 60.
There are several anti-viral medications that your health care provider can prescribe to shorten the course of shingles, and they are most effective when taken early in the course of the illness.
Other treatments include medication to control the itch and pain associated with the rash, oatmeal baths, calamine® lotion and/or cool wet compresses to the rash.
A shingles vaccine called Zostavax® was developed several years ago, and one dose is currently recommended for individuals over the age of 60.
You can read about the vaccine here, and I encourage you to contact your health care provider to learn more.
Dr. Victoria Niederhauser Contact
Victoria is dean and professor of the College of Nursing at UT Knoxville. Her scholarly activities focus in the area of child and adolescent health promotion and disease prevention, with an emphasis on immunizations. Her motivation to work in this important area stems from her passion to help children and their families be healthy and stay healthy. She is a board certified pediatric nurse practitioner and has authored more than 50 articles and book chapters on child health and educational issues. She was named to the American Academy of Nursing’s 2015 Class of New Fellows, received the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners State Award for Excellence, the Research Award from Sigma Theta Tau, Gammi Psi Chapter and is a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow. Additionally, she is an Executive Advisory Board member of the Beryl Institute, on the Board of Directors of the RWJ Executive Nurse Fellows Alumni Association and is chair of the Board of Directors for the Tennessee Action Coalition.