What to do when a family member has shingles

What to do when a family member has shingles

... anyone who has had chickenpox may later develop shingles — even children.

Shingles treatment that you can do.

Malaysian mums are generally well versed when it comes to HFMD and chicken pox, but not so much when it comes to Shingles.

10 days ago my husband had Shingles. We didn’t know what it was when it first hit him, except that he was in a lot of pain all the time. Complaining of shooting pain at the back of his head, and the locum on duty thinking it was muscular pains, he was prescribed some pain killers, anti inflammatory medication, and deep heat cream.

A day after that, the blisters started on his lips. Fearing it was HFMD I had him show me his hands and feet. Nothing. I kept the kids away anyway, and we made quick haste to see our family doctor.

“You Have Shingles”
Day 5

Day 5

Shingles, aka zoster or herpes zoster, is a skin rash caused by a viral infection of the nerves just below the skin. Locals call it “snake” as it usually appears as a trail of irritated skin and blisters along a nerve path. It can occur anywhere on one side of the body, chest or back, including on the face and near the eyes.

shingles3

The good news is that it is pretty rare in kids and teens with healthy immune systems. Many cases have mild symptoms, but more severe cases can be very painful and usually only happens in older people or people with very weak immunity.

The Dormant Virus

What most people do not know, is that anyone who has had chickenpox may later develop shingles — even children.  Even after the chickenpox goes away, the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) stays dormant in the nervous system for life.

In many people, the virus will never come back. But if it does, the reactivation results in shingles or herpes zoster (HZ).

Nobody really knows what the trigger is. It seems to reactivate in people with weakened immunity that could be due to anything including stress, illness and even age.

Is It Contagious?

Yes and No. Yes, the virus is spread through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters. So it is most contagious during blister-phase. A person is not infectious before the blisters appear and after the rash has dried out and developed crusts.

shingles treatment

image credit : m.patient.media/ Blisters at crusting stage

No, because you can’t catch Shingles from Shingles, but you can catch chicken pox from it, if you haven’t had them.

Both my daughters have not had chicken pox. Only my eldest has been vaccinated for chicken pox so I was really worried for my second daughter. We have plane tickets to fly next week. Catching chicken pox now would mean burning those tickets and we wouldn’t be able to fly.

What Did We Do?

As there is no cure for Shingles, it just has to run its course. The good doctor prescribed anti-viral medication, immune boosters, more pain relief, topical creams, and oral creams because the blisters were in his mouth too.

  • Kept the kids away
  • Upped husband’s vitamin intake to 8000cc a day
  • Made sure the kids had their daily vitamins too
  • Husband even applied toothpaste to speed up the drying up, although this is probably a home remedy he read somewhere and not medically proven
  • Taking extra care with cleanliness – separate utensils and laundry
  • Home quarantine
  • Breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed.
shingles treatment

Day 9 – Healing slowly

We’re at Day 11 today and grateful both kids have escaped the pox.

Not Life Threatening But..

You can’t die from Shingles, but you could get severely hurt from it. It could affect your nervous system and cause you prolonged pain even after the blisters are long gone. The pain could last for months or even years for some.

About 15 of every 100 people with shingles have blisters that affect the nerves around the eyes. This can result in reduced vision and blindness.

All this can be prevented by taking the Shingles vaccine which is recommended for people over the age of 50 as this is the age it is most prone to reactivate. However, you should always discuss with your healthcare provider for instances that you should NOT get the Shingles vaccine, like if you were pregnant for instance.

If you recognise the symptoms of Shingles, seek early treatment, as it may help reduce the severity of the condition and the risk of potential complications. The faster you receive treatment, the better.

credit: The Malaysian Times, Kids Health Org, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

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