With so much press surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines, it is very easy to lose focus on the other essential vaccinations for older adults. But there’s one in particular that deserves some time in the public eye: the shingles vaccine.
What Exactly Is Shingles?
Shingles is an infection caused by the same virus that triggers chickenpox. If a person has ever had chickenpox, they are at an increased risk for developing shingles later on. This is because the virus remains dormant in nerve tissue around the brain and spinal cord for decades before potentially reactivating.
While not life-threatening, shingles can be extremely painful and result in a number of other problematic effects, including:
- A red, blistering rash (commonly covering one region of the torso)
- Burning, tingling, sensitivity, itching, or numbness
- Light sensitivity
- And much more
In addition, long-term impacts range from skin infections, eye infections (that may lead to loss of vision), to stability or hearing trouble, facial paralysis, encephalitis, and much more.
Who Is at an Increased Risk for Shingles?
There are a lot of risk factors, most commonly age. Shingles is most prevalent in those 50 and over, with the risk increasing throughout aging. In addition, people who meet the following criteria are at a heightened risk for shingles:
- Immunocompromised caused by a disease like cancer, HIV/AIDS, or any other condition
- Undergoing treatment that impacts the immune system, such as chemo or radiation
- Taking steroids or medications that prevent a transplanted organ from being rejected
Why the Shingles Vaccine Is Important for Seniors
The good news is that a powerful vaccine is accessible and recommended for men and women age 50 and older, and individuals age 19 and older with a compromised immune system. The shingles vaccine is important for senior health, and the CDC suggests the Shingrix vaccine, a 2-dose injection that is over 90% effective in seniors.
Side effects from Shingrix are minimal – significantly more bearable than the effects of shingles itself. The most typical symptoms include mild or moderate soreness in the arm, redness, and swelling at the injection site. Some other reported side effects include fatigue, headache, muscle pain, stomachache, shivering, fever, or nausea. These issues typically subside in about 2-3 days, and may be alleviated with over-the-counter medications or as directed by the doctor.
What Should I Do if I Currently Have Shingles?
Your physician should be consulted if you believe that you or someone you love has shingles, but especially if any of the following apply:
- The rash is anywhere in the vicinity of the eyes
- The rash is widespread and painful
- You (or your loved one) are over the age of 60
- You (or your loved one) have a compromised immune system
How In-Home Care Can Help
Want more information on why the shingles vaccine is important for seniors? Live Free Home Health Care, a provider of home care in Epsom, NH and the surrounding areas, is on hand to assist someone with shingles or those interested in steering clear of the condition through:
- Providing transportation and accompaniment to doctors’ appointments and to get the vaccine
- Monitoring for changes in condition so they can be reported and attended to as soon as possible
- Errand-running, such as picking up prescriptions and groceries
- Cooking balanced meals and ensuring necessary hydration
- And much more