Friday, October 8, 2010

My year of Shingles

I spent the first four months of 2010 nursing my mum through a bad attack of shingles. Now I've got it. On Wednesday evening I noticed what looked like a mosquito bite on my waist (we are having an Indian summer here, so a bite was not impossible). Yesterday evening the single blister had become a line running for a few inches round my waist -- a classic shingles rash. I've been feeling under the weather for a few weeks and had an itchy back; that is often how the disease starts.

I didn't catch it from mum. You can't catch shingles from someone else. I've got it because I had chicken pox as a child, because I have a genetic vulnerability, and because I've been under physical and emotional stress (I've just had two abscessed teeth treated and we've had a death in the family).

On New Year's Day I blogged about the vaccine (currently unavailable in the UK), and about the ethically dubious UK policy of not vaccinating children against chicken-pox in order to protect the older generations, so I won't repeat myself, but I will say this:

IF YOU ARE OVER 50 YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SHINGLES. The chance of getting the disease increases with age and by the time you are retired you are very likely to get it and the symptoms will be more severe. Treatment with anti-viral drugs can lessen the symptoms, but you need to start taking them within 72 hours of the rash appearing. Make sure you know how to recognise the rash.

I'm still within the 72 hours. I'm seeing the doctor at 1.30 today, so hopefully I'm not going to go through the agony endured by my mum and my brother.

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