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Herpes zoster, known as shingles, is an infection of the skin. It’s caused by a reactivation of the same virus which causes chickenpox, varicella-zoster. If you had chickenpox as a child, the virus lays dormant afterward and is not completely cleared from your immune system. Shingles is most common in those over 50 and by 85, 50% of those that age have had a shingles attack. If you should have a weakened immune system or are under long term stress you are more likely to develop shingles.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

  • Blisters that appear in a group or strip
  • A feeling of unwellness
  • Headache, chills and fever alongside pain or a bruised feeling in the part of the body infected
  • Deep aching or burning feeling

They can be treated by keeping the affected area clean and dry. Wear loose clothing in order to be more comfortable and keep from bursting the blisters. If you experience itching, you can use calamine lotion. Never scratch at the affected area. While you are infected, don’t share bath towels, facecloths or clothing. There are antiviral medications that can help reduce the length of time that you experience symptoms and they can also help with discomfort. You should start taking these medications within 72 hours of the first sign of an outbreak. Painkillers can also help with headaches and other pain.

The best way to avoid getting them is by getting the the vaccine. At this time, Ontario is providing the shingles vaccine free to seniors between 65 and 70 years of age. In Ontario, more than forty thousand people develop shingles each year, leading to increased costs and visits to hospital emergency rooms. To receive the vaccine, contact your doctor or healthcare provider.

To read more about shingles and the available vaccine, click here.

This article is intended for informational purposes only. If you have any questions or are considering any recommendations, please consult your health practitioner.