Shingles can be a painful and threatening disease for aging parents or their family caregivers. Taking preventive measures and asking your doctor if the shingles vaccine is a good idea for your family is one way to help ward off this viral assault.
What is shingles?
We hear about shingles all the time, but not everyone knows what it is or what causes it.
Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash that is comes from the same virus that causes chickenpox. Because the virus is called the herpes zoster, shingles is sometimes called zoster or zona. By any name, it should be avoided.
What causes shingles?
After a person has chickenpox, the virus that caused it can live in the person’s body for decades. It may flare up much later as shingles.
Sometimes a person can develop shingles as a result of the vaccine to prevent chickenpox; usually, however, this form of shingles is milder than the one that is caused by chickenpox itself.
Should your aging parents get shingles vaccines?
If you are 60 years or older, then according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should get a shingles vaccination (with some exceptions, which we’ll get to in a minute), whether you have had chickenpox or not. One study a few years back indicated that 99% of Americans over the age of 40 have had chickenpox, so it’s very likely that most seniors have had the disease.
The shingles vaccination is not an annual one, and should be effective for at least six years. Since the vaccine is relatively new, scientists are still studying to see how long it stays effective. Even if you’ve already had shingles, you can get the vaccine again to keep the disease from reoccurring.
So who should NOT get the vaccine?
- According to the CDC, any person “who has ever had a life-threatening or severe allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine” should not get this vaccine.
- People with a weakened immune systems should not get the vaccine.
- People with tuberculosis should avoid the vaccine.
- Pregnant women should not get the vaccine.