What is Shingles?
Shingles or herpes zoster is a devastating come back of chickenpox caused by the varicella zoster virus or VZV. Once the person has had chickenpox, VZV stays in the body. It does not cause any problem until the time when the body’s immune system gets compromised that it becomes reactivated and causes shingles. It usually occurs to people in their 60s or older, although, kids and adults whose immune defense is low are also at high risk of being affected.
What are the risk factors in acquiring shingles?
People who are at higher risk of acquiring shingles have the following conditions:
- Cancer of any type
- If you take immunosuppressive drugs such as steroids, anti reject medications given after an organ transplant
How to protect oneself from shingles?
Fortunately, there are ways that will help us prevent ourselves from acquiring shingles. These include the following:
Avoid getting chickenpox if possible. You will never have shingles if you don’t have chickenpox first. So avoid being around with people who have shingles and chickenpox.
Get yourself vaccinated. A vaccine against chickenpox will help prevent not only chickenpox but shingles as well. If you have had chickenpox in the past, you may opt for shingles vaccine. It is already available and is recommended by the ACIP or Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. This helps reduce the occurrence of shingles in people aging 60 years old and above. However, people who have the following conditions should not be vaccinated:
- HIV/AIDS or other medical condition involving the immune system
- Pregnant or possibly pregnant. Women should not become pregnant at least 3 months after having the vaccine.
- Active and untreated tuberculosis
- An extreme anaphylactic reaction to gelatin, antibiotic neomycin or other components of the vaccine
- History of cancer affecting the lymphatic system like leukemia and lymphom
Avoid coming in direct contact with a person having shingles. Even if you have not experienced chickenpox, you may still acquire the virus and develop chickenpox from a person with shingles. The virus doesn’t spread through sneezing, coughing, or casual contact though.
Do not become overly stressed. Avoid extremely stressful situations because stress and anxiety can depress the immune system and stimulate shingles attack.
Keep yourself healthy. Try to have a healthy lifestyle, eat a balanced diet (more fruits and vegetables is a must) and exercise regularly. A healthy way of living boosts the immune system, thus, preventing a shingles outbreak.
Hints and Tips
Always remember how chickenpox and shingles spread to other people so that you can take necessary steps to avoid acquiring these conditions from infected persons. Wash hands regulary and increase your intake of Vitamins to increase defense against the disease. Prevention is better than cure.
Although, this article has provided you important information on how to prevent getting infected by the zoster virus, this does not intend to replace a doctor’s advice about your health. Still, the best thing to do is to discuss health matters to your health care provider. You may ask your doctor about the right vaccines that are good for you.
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