What We’ve Learned About Shingles

The things we’ve learned about shingles recently have nothing to do with the finishing touches on your house, or improving the looks of an existing structure. They also don’t have the life span of the average asphalt shingle, thank goodness. While both can be a challenge to grapple with, one is a much more personal test of endurance, patience and tolerance. Replacing shingles on a roof is hard work and takes time, planning and patience. Waiting for an outbreak of shingles to leave your body is truly a test of endurance, because, after all, there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t wish them away, or take a pill and have them disappear. The duration is different for different people, as is the severity or intensity of the symptoms. This much we have learned.

I have the shingles. It started off with an eye that was scratchy and uncomfortable. Then I got a tender place on top of my head for no apparent reason and no visual indications. The next day my eye began to hurt so I went to the optometrist (who we have been seeing for years. He is very knowledgeable and we trust his judgement.) and got some drops for the inflammation. We then went to our internist for basic checkups, and he looked at the tender place and the eye. This appointment had been scheduled several weeks before. The next day my eye still hurt and the whole side of my head was becoming tender or sensitive. Fern asked the nurse at school what she thought, and absent any other symptoms, she said it may be shingles. We called our doctor with the new symptoms and he called in a viral antibiotic made for shingles. 

Shingles are new in our household. My symptoms were not the classic, large patches of red skin with little bumps that blister and burst. We don’t know if catching it early and starting the antibiotics prevented this, or if I would ever have had this, but I don’t. The right upper half of my head is extremely tender, and I have a half a dozen little red spots, one directly under my eye and two on my forehead, which we’ve been treating with Caladryl. All of this is liveable. Well, I guess it’s actually all liveable. But, on occasion, I will have a shooting pain behind my ear, or right above my eye socket, this is to go along with the moderate headache that I have constantly. I also have had a low grade fever most of the time. One minute I can be burning up, and the next minute, I’m freezing.

Other symptoms include sporadic nausea. We don’t know whether this comes from the shingles or the medication to treat the shingles. My appetite is off. Sometimes I’m starving, which is normal for me. But there are also periods where I have no appetite. My sleep has been disrupted, and for the last ten days I have woke up every morning with the pain behind my ear pounding and a severe headache, but only on the half of my head that’s tender. But there are times when I feel just fine, but we can’t find a pattern to this, and it doesn’t last long, at the most a couple of hours a day.

I believe at times I’m delusional, because once, when I was looking in the mirror at the red spots, I actually thought I was charming and handsome. Good to see I haven’t lost my sense of humor. We’ve been told by multiple folks that have had shingles, that these symptoms will pass, from start to finish in about two weeks. Others say, these symptoms can linger for months. We’re shooting for two weeks. So, if you’re wondering why you haven’t heard a post from me in a while, it’s because I feel terrible. And even ice cream does not cure this. More humor.

Things we have learned. Shingles are related to and in the same family as chicken pox. Shingles for the most part, are not contagious, unless you have an open sore, similar to chicken pox. There is a vaccine for it, like chicken pox. But, like chicken pox, you have to get the vaccine before you get the shingles. Some sources say you can’t get shingles more than once, like chicken pox, but in rare cases, it can happen, like chicken pox. Does shingles kill? Not normally, but it can. 

So, now here’s the question. About ten days ago, I got in my car, drove to the optometrist, then drove to my internist, and drove home. The next day, we talked to the school nurse, called the doctor, he called in a prescription, we picked it up, came home and started treatment, while also using over the counter skin products. Now. The question is: Would any of this have been possible during a grid down situation? Or any type of collapse, whatever the reason being? Would I have been able to diagnose this myself? Maybe in the advanced stages. So, what would I have done? Sometimes we need to ponder these thoughts. 

Outside of the rare, rare occasion, we always have electricity, and our cell phones always work. The pharmacy always has medication and on that rare occasion they’re out of something, it will be there in a short period of time. What about the gasoline we need to drive there? What about the relative security of free travel? What about the liberty and freedom to choose what doctors I go to? These are all things that I and most folks take for granted. They will just always be there, because they always have been. Always have been. Always have been in my life time. 

But my grandmother lived on the same planet I live on, and they weren’t always there during her lifetime. But then she was born in a covered wagon. Folks, my grandmother lived during the same time frame that

many of our grandmother’s lived. When she was born, there was no electricity. There was no telephone, school nurse, and the conveniences that we always accept as always being there. My grandmother is not some mythological creature from the dark ages, this is my daddy’s mother. Folks, there may come a day soon when we can’t say, it’s always been there. We have very short memories. It hasn’t always been there. And tomorrow, next week, next month, it may not be there again. So my question was, what would I do without all the above mentioned? I would have to make due, just like my grandmother did. She lived to be a fruitful old woman.


We’ll talk more later. Frank


11 thoughts on “What We’ve Learned About Shingles

  1. Hi Deb. I just don't know about buying anti-virals from a pet supply or vet. I know that they have some controlled drugs. Ask your vet. Don't forget to ask your family doctor, too. But, be aware and be careful, some prescription medications can certainly land you in trouble if used for the wrong purposes. Again, ask your vet, and if you can, ask him about a good source. Yes, the shingles are long gone. Thank you for asking, and thank you for the comment.Frank

  2. Dear Frank, Thank you for sharing your experience with shingles. I hope that you are completely recovered and that you and your wife are in the best of health. I wonder if it would be possible for people to find a vet. (animal) viral antibiotic to put into their medical first aid boxes that could be purchased without prescription? Best wishes! deb

  3. Dear Frank, Shingles has visited our home more than once. I've found Hylands cold sore and fever remedy to be effective in our cases. The first time with shingles, the pain was so severe that my sister drove me to the ER with a suspected heart attack. She is an RN. The burning rash popped up the next day. The knawing pain precedes the rash.Our forebears had remedies for their illnesses. Some were effective. Some were not. But they soldiered on. They 'knew what they were made of'. –Kathy Miller

  4. Shingles can recur. My Mom had it multiple times. She used I-lysine as a daily preventative and larger doses to clear it up.Liz

  5. I truly think with the way insurance is going and the onset of Obamacare that many more people will take care of their needs naturally. Since many pharmacy based drugs are actually based on natural ingredients hopefully this turn around will help folks and save money. There is a store, website & catalog called Old Vermont Store http://www.vermontcountrystore.com/store/ and they are supposed to have some great remedies to help with shingles. Hope you're feeling well soon!

  6. You're right, T. Our grandparents knew much more about how to deal with things naturally than we do. Most of us have never learned anything about how to deal with things, whether it's health, gardening or cooking. So, let's keep learning all we can while we still have the relative comforts available to us.Thank you for your comment.Fern

  7. I don't know about everybody else …. But my grand parents as well as my folks live thru many many things… And still survived (pop was 91 when he passed last yr)They didn't have Names for their illness little own \”a pill for that\”… Suspect they had \”their network\” people who had been thru it or knew about it?… Brings to mind … How much knowage we've lost and that's how we'll make it in the future when you know what happens God said he'd give us what we need (knowlolage, and physical)… Look around and beyond … We've all learned from your experiences …. Thanks for that, sorry I had to learn from your pain/ discomfort Hopefully get lots better soon …. I'm believing in it\”T\”

  8. Thanks to both you and your wife for the wonderful bolg. I had Shingles when I was 12. My Great Aunt sent us some, Miracle cream and it was gone in 3 or 4 days. Found out 20 years later that it was (Zinc Oxide) a friends son was ill and had Shingles over 80% of his body. It helped him. I recently heard of anyother person with shingles that used (Manzanita Oil), took away the pain and she only has scabs left. Ihope this information helps you!Susie in No. Ca

  9. My sympathies for what you are experiencing. Two of my daughters have experienced shingles, one in Jr high and one in 5th grade. The one in fifth grade gave her little sister, in 2nd grade, a severe case of chickenpox, even tho I did my best to isolate her (separate bedroom, separate bathroom, etc) within the house. I have NEVER seen this severe of a case of chickenpox. Because our children had asthma & allergies, we had a nationally certified allergist/immunologist we could consult, & I did. He told me the youngest daughter's case of chickenpox was contracted from her older sister's case of shingles (so much for not being contagious!), but that if one had experienced a \”hard\” case of chickenpox (as in lots of pox), the immunological response would be sufficient to prevent shingles. Both daughter that had shingles had experienced very light cases of chickenpox, with just a few pustules on their foreheads. My youngest daughter, however, has several scars from the case contracted from shingles, She would have had more without antiviral medication that the doctor gave her. He wouldn't give it to her until the 4th day, tho, telling me we needed to develop enough of an immune response so she wouldn't have to deal with shingles later. I was not affected at all, even tho I cared for all of them, but I had a \”good\” enough case of chickenpox that I can remember having it over 5 decades ago. (I was 6)The takeway for me was the knowledge that chickenpox & shingles are different manifestations of the same virus. Chickenpox is the primary manifestation & shingles is the secondary, which apparently only happens if the immune response from the primary manifestation is inadequate. That is why shingles USUALLY happens when we are older. An important detail here is that since shingles CAN produce chickenpox in the \”unexposed\” who have not had chickenpox before, people with shingles should NOT be around expectant mothers/ newborns, & observe the same restrictions as would be observed with chickenpox & pregnant women,/newborns, as the virus is quite dangerous to the baby in utero, or newly born, until at least 6 months. I remember my paternal grandmother caring for grandbabies when their siblings had chickenpox.

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