With a great deal of press surrounding the COVID-19 vaccinations, it’s very easy to lose focus on the other essential vaccines for seniors. But there is one in particular that is worthy of time in the public eye: the shingles vaccination.
What Is Shingles?
Shingles is an infection caused by the same virus that triggers chickenpox. If someone has had chickenpox, they are at risk for developing shingles later on. This is because the virus remains dormant in nerve tissue near the brain and spinal cord for a long time before potentially reactivating.
Although it is not life-threatening, shingles can be extremely painful and cause a number of other complications, such as:
- A red, blistering rash (usually covering one region of the torso)
- Sensitivity, itching, burning, numbness, or tingling
- Light sensitivity
- And much more
In addition, long-lasting impacts may include skin infections, eye infections (that can result in vision loss), stability or hearing problems, facial paralysis, encephalitis, and much more.
Who Is at Risk for Shingles?
There are a number of risk factors, most commonly age. Shingles is most prevalent in individuals 50 and over, with the risk increasing as they age. Additionally, those who meet the following conditions are at a heightened risk for shingles:
- Having a compromised immune system as a result of a disease like cancer, HIV/AIDS, or other condition
- Undergoing treatment that affects the immune system, such as chemo or radiation
- Taking steroids or medications that prevent a transplanted organ from being rejected
Is Shingles Preventable?
The good news is that a highly effective shingles vaccination is accessible and suggested for adults age 50 and older, and individuals age 19 and older with a compromised immune system. The CDC recommends the Shingrix vaccine, a 2-dose injection that is higher than 90% effective in seniors.
Adverse reactions from Shingrix are minimal – significantly more tolerable than the effects of shingles itself. The most common symptoms include mild or moderate discomfort in the arm, redness, and inflammation at the injection site. Some other reported side effects include headache, stomachache, muscle pain, fever, shivering, nausea, or fatigue. The effects typically subside in about 2-3 days, and can be eased with over-the-counter drugs or as directed by the physician.
What Can I Do if I Currently Have Shingles?
The doctor should be consulted in the event that you suspect that you or someone you love has shingles, but in particular if any of the following apply:
- The rash is anywhere around the eyes
- The rash is widespread and painful
- You (or your loved one) are 60 or older
- You (or your loved one) have a compromised immune system
How Aging Care Can Help
- Providing transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and to get the vaccine
- Monitoring for changes in condition so they can be reported and addressed as soon as possible
- Taking care of errands, such as picking up prescriptions and groceries
- Preparing healthy meals and ensuring sufficient hydration
- And a lot more