President's Prescription: Fighting Shingles and Chickenpox

President's Prescription: Fighting Shingles and Chickenpox
Updated: May. 16, 2016 at 12:56 AM CDT
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - It's hard to imagine, but chickenpox, formerly a rite of passage for children everywhere, have nearly been eradicated in the U.S.

Thanks to the chickenpox vaccine, fewer children get the disease. It's possible that these children will also be less likely to get the very painful condition, shingles, later in life.

We don't see chickenpox as commonly today as we used to because of vaccinations, but it used to be something that doctors would see quite often. In fact, the kids would come in with a fever, headache, fatigue and loss of appetite. And eventually, they would develop a very uncomfortable, itchy rash. But it's not the chickenpox per say that most folks are worried about. It's the issues they can develop later in life that has people concerned.

Shingles is the result of the chickenpox virus, varicella-zoster, remaining in spinal fluid for years after the initial illness. Older individuals are at the highest risk for developing shingles and typically experience burning pain or numbness, sensitivity, blisters, itching and a rash that wraps around areas like the torso. Shingles pain is notoriously intense, and can last 3 to 5 weeks.

However, your doctor might prescribe antiviral medications to speed your recovery and reduce your risk for complications from shingles. It's important to contact your doctor right away to fast track getting well.

Luckily, there is a shingles vaccine for adults 50 and older, which will reduce your risk of getting shingles, as well as reduce the amount of time and severity of an outbreak if one occurs. Likewise, the chickenpox vaccine given to children could reduce the risk of developing shingles later in life, or reduce the severity of the condition if a vaccinated person contracts the disease.

A person with chickenpox or shingles is generally considered contagious until the blisters on the rash have scabbed over. Until that time, they can pass the virus onto other people like pregnant women, newborn children, people with immune system problems and people that haven't had chickenpox. So make sure that you're careful around those individuals.

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