7 Tips for Preventing Shingles

May 7th 2016

For adults under the age of 50, there is no surefire way to prevent shingles. With sensible virus-prevention steps and an awareness of your personal history with chickenpox, you can reduce your risk.

Shingles Vaccine

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only verifiable way to help prevent shingles is the Zostavax vaccine. Zostavax is the only approved vaccine on the market as of April 2015. It is recommended only for people 60 years and older; this population is the most susceptible to shingles. The Food and Drug Administration has only approved the vaccine for people over the age of 50. Zostavax requires a prescription from your doctor.

Varicella Vaccine

If you have not had chickenpox, you are not currently at risk for shingles. Reduce your risk of getting either disease in the future by asking your doctor for the varicella vaccine, which is designed to prevent chickenpox. The CDC recommends two doses of the vaccine for maximum efficiency. In most cases, this course of action prevents chickenpox 98 percent of the time.

Avoid Shingles Patients

Shingles itself is not contagious, but infected patients can pass the varicella zoster virus on to other people. If you have never suffered from chickenpox, the best way to reduce your risk of contracting the virus is to stay away from people with shingles. Patients can pass on the virus until the blisters scab over.

Avoid Chickenpox Patients

Since shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus, you should also avoid people with chickenpox if you have never had the disease. Chickenpox patients are highly contagious and can spread the virus by coughing, sneezing, touching or breathing. Infected people are contagious from two days before the rash starts until the blisters have crusted over.

Strengthen Your Immune System

People with weak immune systems are more prone to the shingles virus. To boost your immune system and help prevent the virus, make an effort to exercise, manage your weight and eat a healthy diet. Harvard Medical School also recommends that you get enough sleep and manage your blood pressure.

Wash Your Hands Frequently

Like other viruses, the shingles virus can spread through bodily fluids that transfer to other surfaces. One way to help avoid the virus is to wash your hands frequently.

Request Patient Action

If you must be in contact with chickenpox or shingles patients, you can take steps to reduce your risk. Request that patients cover their rashes whenever possible, and ask that they take greater care with hand-washing and sneezing.

Conclusion

Shingles is a virus that causes a skin rash that is usually accompanied by blistering. You may be susceptible to shingles if you have ever had chickenpox. The virus that causes chickenpox, varicella zoster virus, stays in the body. If it reactivates, you are at risk of getting shingles.

Sources

CDC.gov "Prevent shingles" http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Shingles/
NLM.NIH.gov "Protecting yourself from shingles" http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/winter10/articles/winter10pg16-17.html
WebMD.com "Shingles - prevention" http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/shingles/shingles-prevention
Health.Harvard.edu "How to boost your immune system" http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
CDC.gov "Chickenpox (varicella)" http://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/vaccination.html

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