A man looks alarmed as a nurse looks at his back with shingles

Shingles: Good Reason to Boost My Immune System

Editor’s note: This article was written by Health Leader Jacqueline Harmon and originally appeared on our partner site BladderCancer.net. She shares her experience with shingles while living with multiple serious health conditions.

By now, I assume nearly everyone with a TV has seen those commercials with the tagline "SHINGLES CAN BE WHAT?!" I certainly have, and I have pondered whether I should bother getting the vaccine. After all, I feel bombarded with media and ads for all sorts of pharmaceuticals these days.

Between COVID-19 and the regular old seasonal flu, I have joked that this is becoming a shots nation. Therefore, I have questioned the necessity of the shingles vaccine.

Vaccination is nothing new

Don't get me wrong – I support vaccines. As memory serves me, I was repeatedly inoculated during childhood. For various reasons, I have even received adult boosters.

Before bladder cancer, vascular issues, and two flu episodes, I was fairly healthy. However, I started taking the yearly flu vaccines after contracting H1N1 in 2009. That was shortly after my first intravesical instillation of mitomycin following a transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT). Oh, the pain and suffering! From the flu, I mean.

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Why procrastinate over shingles?

So, why do I even hesitate when it comes to the shingles vaccine? I don't know for sure. Maybe I am holding on to the delusion that I can avert any disease with my super immunity. Why would I need the vaccine? For a childhood illness, no less. That was literally a lifetime ago. Why should I worry about it reactivating now?

There is an odd rash on my back

Well, about a week ago, I noticed a quarter-sized welt just below my right shoulder blade. Because I suffer from a food allergy, I suspected it was something I ate. So, I rubbed a bit of Benadryl on it, thinking it would shrink.

Two days later, the rash had spread. It itched and burned at the same time. By the third day, two swollen lymph nodes under my arm were enough to prompt me to seek care. It was a good thing, too. The nurse practitioner looked at my back and said, "You have shingles, Pumpkin."

Ironically, I had searched shingles online and decided that my findings didn't match my symptoms. And that is why I am not qualified to make an accurate diagnosis.

Living with shingles is not fun

Shingles can be prevented. That is what the science says. Meanwhile, I am recovering from the most uncomfortable preventable viral outbreak of my life. What was there to think about? Being sick or staying well? Having persistent burning, itchy surges of nerve pain or not? It's really a no-brainer . . . now.1

If you haven't had shingles, just imagine your back (or face or neck) has been shaved with a dull razor. That gets inflamed and shaved again. The softest touch, the slightest reach causes pain. If the wind were to gently whisk your rash, it would feel like the stabbings from a thousand needles. The lymph nodes on the affected side might swell with pain. You might feel a tad nauseous as nerve sensation wraps around your ribcage. You will experience bouts of itching between pain surges. Or they will occur simultaneously.

To put it bluntly, living with shingles is not fun.

Early treatment can ease suffering

I believe that starting the antiviral medicine within 72 hours of the rash appearing was key to my speedy recovery. This treatment is most effective when started as soon as possible.2

Broths and electrolyte drinks have helped me stay hydrated. My solid diet has remained unchanged. Throughout the day, I sip teas, green juices, and filtered water to flush the virus. Most importantly, I am getting the best sleep I have had in a long time. And, voila! A speedy recovery.

It was a short and mild outbreak

Thankfully, my temperature never exceeded 98.9 degrees during the outbreak. The rash has scabbed over and is nearly healed. On the other hand, the pain swells in places where there was no rash. The itching jumps all over my body when I try to sleep at night.

All in all, my shingles experience has been a short, mild outbreak. And yet, it is just one more thing I didn't need two weeks before my follow-up cystoscopy.

The shingles vaccine

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute on Aging (NIH), it can take 5 weeks for shingles symptoms to disappear. However, some people report having nerve pain for months, even up to a year after their episodes.3-5

I cannot predict whether that will happen to me. I am just thankful to be bouncing back. But to be on the safe side, I will get the vaccine as soon as possible.

Tell us about your experience with shingles in the comments below, or share your story with the community.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The ParkinsonsDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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