Essential Shingles Advice Image

Essential Shingles Advice

Shingles is a condition that can be both painful and debilitating, particularly for seniors. It’s caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus responsible for chickenpox. If you or a loved one are among the many older adults dealing with this ailment, understanding it and knowing what steps to take can make a significant difference in managing symptoms and reducing the risk of complications.
Here are some practical tips and advice to help provide some comfort and strategies to those affected by shingles.

What is shingles?

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, occurs when the dormant chickenpox virus is reactivated later in life. It typically presents as a painful rash that may also be itchy and develops on one side of the body or face, often with blisters that can burst and crust over.
The rash can take several weeks to settle and for 1 in 10 people, the pain and tingling of shingles can last for months or even years. It isn’t life-threatening, however shingles can be extremely painful, especially for the elderly, whose immune systems may not be as robust.

The symptoms

The first step in managing shingles is recognising the symptoms early:

  • Tingling or localised pain
  • A red rash that develops a few days after the pain
  • Blisters filled with fluid that burst and then scab
  • Itching
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Headache
  • Tiredness and fatigue.

How do you get shingles?

After having chickenpox, the virus stays inactive in the nerve cells of your body. The virus may be reactivated by illness, stress, immunosuppression, older age, and radiotherapy. However, shingles often occurs for no reason at all.
You can’t catch shingles from someone who has shingles, but you can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles, if you haven’t had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. The virus is spread from contact with fluid from the shingles blisters or by using or touching infected bedding, clothing or towels.
Unlike chickenpox, the shingles virus does not usually spread by coughing and sneezing. You can cover the shingles blisters with a dressing to help reduce the risk of passing the virus to others. Once the blisters crust over, the person is no longer infectious.

Seeking medical advice

If you suspect that you or a loved one has shingles, it’s important to see a healthcare provider promptly. Early treatment can help reduce the severity and duration of the virus.
There is no cure for shingles. Antiviral medications are often prescribed to manage shingles, and pain relief can be provided through over the counter or prescription medicines. Your doctor may also advise on remedies to soothe the affected area, such as cool baths or wet compresses.


One of the best ways to prevent shingles is to get vaccinated. The shingles vaccine is recommended for most people over the age of 50, regardless of whether they remember having had chickenpox, as the virus remains latent in the nervous system for life.
Speak with your healthcare provider about the vaccine and whether it’s a suitable option for you.
The vaccination does not guarantee that you won’t get shingles, but it will reduce your chance of developing the condition.

Managing shingles

Controlling the pain and preventing itching from leading to infection is crucial. Here are some tips:

  • Keep the rash clean and dry.
  • Use calamine lotion or other soothing creams, as recommended by your doctor.
  • Avoid scratching or picking at blisters.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing to avoid extra irritation.
  • Use a cooled towel on the affected area.

Lifestyle adjustments

Reducing stress and taking care of your overall health can help your body fight the virus. Consider gentle exercises like walking or yoga, which can also help you manage stress.
Ensure a healthy diet, rich in nutrients that support the immune system, and maintain good sleep hygiene to give your body the rest it needs to recover.

Stay connected

Having shingles can be a miserable experience due to its painful nature and the need to distance oneself from others to avoid infecting others. Stay connected with friends and family through phone calls or video chats. Emotional support plays an important role in recovery.
For those dealing with shingles, it is pivotal to seek medical advice quickly, consider vaccination, and manage symptoms diligently. Remember that you’re not alone and that with the right approach, shingles can be a condition that you overcome with time and care.


“I had never really thought about shingles, as I didn’t know anyone who had been affected by it. Now I think about it a lot… it was the worst pain that I have ever experienced.
What sometimes seems the simplest thing can turn out to be the worst. Please don’t ignore ANY symptoms and act straight away.”
Elva, COTA Insurance Ambassador.


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