27 August 2021

A Critical Thing to Know About Shingles

So a critical thing to know about Shingles is that you need to get treatment within 72 HOURS of your first shingles rash appearing so you can start the antiviral medicine which will reduce your symptoms, shorten the duration, and most critically, prevent ongoing pain (postherpetic neuralgia) after your rash clears.

I missed this 72 hour window by ~12 hours. Based on how my blistery rash looked, my doc estimated I will have 4 months of pain. (Trust me, it sucks.)

If you're 50+, get the Shingles vaccine! Learn more from the CDC.

Other key things to know:
If you had chickenpox in the past, you can get shingles.
Chickenpox and shingles are related because they are caused by the same virus (varicella zoster virus). After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body. It can reactivate years later and cause shingles. –CDC
You don't have to be over 50 to get shingles.

So be vigilant. I didn't know how it presented. I don't want that for you. 

If you have muscle pain and then a rash appears as well, get checked out right away! That is my anecdotal experience. I'm not a medical professional.

10 August 2021

How to Recognize You Have Shingles (Anecdotal)

For me, it started with a muscle strain, vertically along the middle of my spine. Like I'd pulled a muscle.

I'd been doing some odd things recently, like carrying heavy grocery bags over a foot bridge that was so narrow I had to carry one bag in front and one behind. So I didn't think much of it.

The ER doctor said the dormant chickenpox virus hangs out along the middle of your spine. Go figure.

I rolled out my back with rubber balls, kept doing my usual workout and it seemed to improve.

Sleeping Wednesday night, I started to have muscle pain. It felt like it had moved to the right. (The ER doc said Shingles migrates out along the nerves.) When I rolled over, it felt like my skin was tearing.

I assumed I'd gotten a scratch on my back somehow. When I looked at it as best I could on Thursday it was red in a couple places. I put some antibiotic on it which seemed to help and figured it would heal up in a couple days.

That was the first Shingles appearing.

Friday the redness on my back was larger and slightly raised. Redness and bumps also appeared on my chest. I thought this was a stronger atopic dermatitis reaction. It's a condition where rashes can randomly appear. I hadn't had one as pronounced, but again I didn't think it was related to the muscle pain which kept increasing.

I was psyched out because it was Friday and figured the doctor's office wouldn't be able to get me in and also I was still thinking I would start improving. Just that Wednesday, I'd gotten a notice from the local health system about new protocols to help prevent the uptick in Delta variant virus cases.

I really didn't want to go to the ER.

Saturday the pain and redness increased. Here my high tolerance for pain worked against me. I thought about going to the ER but things sort of conspired against that choice and I felt a bit better with a heating pad on my back.

At 6:30 pm, my mom asked to see my back. I said no since I already knew I was definitely having a much stronger skin reaction to something. She suggested it might be Shingles, and I immediately felt she was right. It had never crossed my mind (so I didn't like hearing she'd thought of it before but hadn't mentioned it because she thought I wouldn't listen).

I really didn't want to go the ER on a Saturday night though. My dad would have to drive and night driving isn't great for him and I knew it would really wear him out to be at the ER for 6 hours (and me too). My parents have been a couple times in recent years at night on off-days. It took forever.

Saturday night I had so much pain I don't feel like I slept at all. I'd been taking Advil this whole time for pain but it wasn't doing much.

Sunday morning, I waited for my Dad to get up and then asked him to take me to the ER. The pain was so high it changed my voice, made it higher and harder to talk.

I checked in and described my symptoms. It wasn't long before I was taken back to the triage nurse. I described my symptoms and lifted my shirt to show her my rash. She asked me to stand up because it looked like Shingles and that's contagious. They took my blood pressure which was super high because, guess what?, pain. My pulse oximeter rating was good though.

They whisked me off to a room since I couldn't be in the waiting room. Took 2 hours which is good compared to my past ER experiences. Still, it was a long painful 2 hours because the doctor came, said I had Shingles and that they'd get me 1st doses of an antiviral and a pain reliever but I didn't get those until right when they were ready to kick me out.

Anyway, the moral of the story is you want to start treatment for Shingles as early as possible. I didn't know how it presented. So this anecdote is how it started for me: Muscle strain first that migrated to the right and became painful. Some redness showed up on my back along with the first strong pain. So Thursday would have been the day to seek treatment.

If you are 50 or older, get the Shingles vaccine unless you have a medical reason not to!

Learn more here:

Shingles is no joke. Painful, grisly rash that blisters up. Trust me, you want to avoid this.

10 years ago on TTaT50% for "50 for 50"

03 August 2021


Average total rainfall in July where I live: 5 inches.

July 2021 rainfall total: 17 inches.

Not quite 10 years ago on TTaT, but fittingThe Power of Water, part 1