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Shingles: What Seniors Should Know

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, which causes symptoms similar to that of chicken pox, including tingling/burning of the skin and a rash or band of rashes on one side of the body.

Published: Nov 15, 2017

Shingles: What Seniors Should Know

An Unwelcome Return
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, which causes symptoms similar to that of chicken pox, including tingling/burning of the skin and a rash or band of rashes on one side of the body.

Outbreaks of shingles tend to occur in times of increased stress or when the immune system is in a weakened state – but it’s also extraordinarily common in older adults. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 5 adults will get shingles – after he or she is past the age of 50. For those past the age of 70, the chances are even greater.

How to Treat Shingles
If your senior loved one experiences nausea, tingling/burning sensations, or a painful rash on his or her skin, he or she should talk with a physician immediately. It’s vital that, upon finding a rash, your aging loved one visit a physician within three days. It’s within this window of time that physicians are able to make the most accurate treatment plan.

In addition to medical treatment, such as antiviral drugs and steroids, from your physician, below are a few strategies that your loved one can follow to make the process of healing easier and more convenient. (Always check with a physician before utilizing these treatments)

  • Strengthen the immune system through dietary changes. Incorporate foods rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E (e.g., leafy greens, chicken, fish, and legumes), eliminate fatty foods, and eat well-balanced meals in general.
  • Use healing lotions or creams. Comfort is an important component of the healing process, and ointments with anti-inflammatory ingredients can help tremendously.
  • Cleanse the skin daily with cool water, either through a shower/bath or a compress. Add colloidal oatmeal and cornstarch to maximize the healing. Just be sure to avoid using warm water as it can make blisters worse.

Vaccination
For more than ten years, Zostavax was the only vaccine available. Just this year, however, the FDA officially approved Shringrix, a new vaccine for people 50 years of age and older, developed by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. To learn more about the differences between the two vaccines and which is right, have your loved one talk with his or her physician.

Comfort Keepers® Can Help
As part of our plan of care, we can help your loved one recover from shingles and support their treatment plan, all while helping them perform activities in daily living. We also provide transportation, so if your loved one needs to get to his or her scheduled appointment, he or she can do so safely. Contact your local Comfort Keepers office to learn more about our care services.

References:
National Institute on Aging. “Shingles.” Web. Last Reviewed: December 31, 2016.
AgingCare.com. “Shingles: A Painful Skin Condition.” Web. 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Vaccines and Preventable Diseases: What Everyone Should Know about Shingles Vaccine.” Web. 2017.
WebMD. “Shingles – Topic Overview.” Web. 2017.
GlaxoSmithKline. “Shringrix approved in the US for prevention of shingles in adults aged 50 and over.” Web. 2017.

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