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shingles, my second time

Posted Dec 27 2009 12:00am

Having shingles is pretty nasty. I am running a low-grade fever, and I can feel the heat in my eye sockets–something I’ve always noticed when I get a fever. I feel sick all over and am quite nauseated–not that I need more nausea. I’ve been taking Compazine® to keep it controlled. Between that and the acyclovir and everything else I can barely stay awake, and I have an assortment of odd symptoms: nose bleeds, which I get pretty regularly already, and my mouth is cracked at the corners. I have the usual bad taste in my mouth, but it’s worse, making it nearly impossible to eat anything. About all that seems to work is cranberry grape juice.

How fortunate am I to have shingles twice in my life. The last time happened when I first started teaching dance to the baby class–three-year-olds. From September to December I picked up every bug that year. I could not steer clear of the colds and flu that were flying around me. In January, right after I’d returned home from visiting my family for the holidays, I started feeling a tickle on the right side of my face. As it turned out, the shingles were in my mouth and throat and climbing a path up across my cheek and ear and through my scalp to the back of my head. Thankfully, it did not go through my eye, which can lead to some serious complications. I remember being shocked at how sick I was and ended up being off work and in bed for two solid weeks. The pain in my face was severe, also, and the sensitivity to even a whisper of air was excruciating. The pain and sensitivity lasted a month or so  after the rash healed.

In a nutshell, shingles is caused by the herpes virus, varicella-zoster, which causes chickenpox. When someone has had chickenpox, the virus remains in the body, living in the nerve cells. Something can trigger it later in life to reactivate, though there is ambiguity about exactly what that can be, other than suppressed immunity. When you get shingles, varicella-zoster becomes active. This virus can infect someone–someone who has never yet had chickenpox–with chickenpox. You cannot pass along shingles but only chickenpox, again, to someone who has never had it and, thus, does not have the immunity against it. Also, be aware that the rash, which will blister and then scab over as it heals, contains active virus; you should avoid touching it and, of course, wash your hands after any contact.

Here is an article that answers many questions about shingles.

Exploring Why a Virus Reactivates to Cause Shingles by Irene M. Wielawski, The New York Times

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© 2004-2009 Donna Peach. All rights reserved.
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