With a great deal of press surrounding the COVID-19 vaccinations, it is all too easy to lose focus on the other vital immunizations for older people. But there is one in particular that warrants time in the public eye: the shingles vaccine.
What Is Shingles?
Shingles is an infection brought on by the same virus that causes chickenpox. If somebody has had chickenpox, they are at an increased risk for developing shingles later in life. This is because the virus remains dormant in nerve tissue close to the brain and spinal cord for many years before possibly reactivating.
Though not life-threatening, shingles can be quite painful and cause numerous other troublesome side effects, such as:
- A red, blistering rash (usually wrapping around one side of the torso)
- Burning, tingling, sensitivity, itching, or numbness
- Light sensitivity
- And more
In addition, long-term effects range from skin infections, eye infections (that may lead to loss of vision), stability or hearing trouble, facial paralysis, encephalitis, and much more.
Who Is at an Increased Risk for Shingles?
There are a variety of risk factors, most commonly age. Shingles is most prevalent in people age 50 and older, with the possibility increasing throughout aging. Additionally, people who meet the following criteria are also at a heightened risk for shingles:
- Having a compromised immune system caused by an ailment such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, or other condition
- Going through treatment that affects the immune system, including chemo or radiation
- Taking steroids or medicines that protect against a transplanted organ from being rejected
How to Prevent Shingles
The good news is that an effective vaccine is accessible and advised for adults age 50 and older, and any person age 19 and older with a compromised immune system. The CDC endorses the Shingrix vaccine, a 2-dose injection that is greater than 90% effective in seniors.
Side effects from Shingrix are minimal – a lot more tolerable than the effects of shingles itself. The typical symptoms include mild or moderate soreness in the arm, redness, and swelling at the injection site. Some other reported side effects include nausea, fatigue, muscle pain, shivering, stomach pain, or fever. These side effects typically subside in about 2-3 days, and may be eased with over-the-counter remedies or as instructed by the doctor.
What Can I Do if I Already Have Shingles?
The doctor should be consulted if you suspect that you or a person you love has shingles, but in particular if any of the following apply:
- The rash is anywhere near the eyes
- The rash is painful and widespread
- You (or your loved one) are age 60 or older
- You (or your loved one) have compromised immune system
How Senior Care Can Help
Want more tips on how to prevent shingles or care for it? Hearts at Home In-Home Care, a provider of elder care in Overland Park, KS and throughout the surrounding areas, is readily available to help someone with shingles or anyone interested in steering clear of the condition through:
- Transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and to obtain the vaccine
- Monitoring for changes in condition so they can be reported and taken care of as soon as possible
- Errand-running, including picking up prescriptions and groceries
- Preparing balanced meals and ensuring sufficient hydration
- And even more