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Monday, October 25, 2021

Shingles in Yucatán: Myths, facts and resources

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Maggie Cale
Maggie Cale was born in the United States and has lived most of her life in Pennsylvania. She has a social work degree from Penn State University and finished her career in Washington, D.C. working with families. She moved to Yucatán in 2017 and has worked part-time ghostwriting for bloggers. She lives in Itzimná with her two dogs.
A shingles vaccine today can spare you a lot of pain in the future. Photo: Getty

Rumor has it that shingles are going around the Yucatán: true or false? Well, that’s false! 

But you could still develop this awful condition, especially if you are over 50. 

If you have had chickenpox and the virus becomes active in your system, then you may develop shingles. The important fact is knowing what shingles are and how to care for yourself if they develop.

So what is shingles? 

Fact one, you must have already had chickenpox to contract it. The virus lays dormant in your system, sometimes for years, before it becomes active. 

One in a million people end up with shingles. Triggered by a low immune system, another disease or treatment which both produce stress on your system. Most people over 50 are more prone to the virus due to their immune system not being as strong. However, you can get shingles at any age.

What happens to your body? It can start with some flu-like symptoms. Then you develop blisters, on one side of your trunk or head, face, and scalp. The blisters become painful and go through a cycle of developing, filling with fluid and then a dried scab. Shingles is nerve-related, which explains the pain and lingering pain. This can be accompanied by dizziness, extreme fatigue, nausea, joint aches, and low-grade fever. 

5 myths, busted

  1. Although it’s related to the herpes virus, shingles is not an STD.
  2. Shingles is not only an old-age virus, but more elderly people’s systems can become compromised.
  3. You can’t catch shingles from a person with chickenpox. However, you can pass on chickenpox from shingles.
  4. You can get shingles more than once, so get the vaccine even if you’ve had it.
  5. You are contagious to anyone who has never had chickenpox, so while experiencing open blisters, it is recommended to stay home. However, no one can catch shingles from you.

Self-care before and during shingles is key. Staying healthy and strong against the virus includes exercise, healthy foods, good weight, and reducing stress.

Great self-care during a shingles outbreak is essential. The diagnosis is important, so have a physician check the symptoms. If diagnosed with shingles, an antiviral medication will be started to help reduce the symptoms. Something for pain and depending on the severity, a nerve block medication so you are not sleep deprived.

Following a shingles diet will help to build up your nervous system. It is suggested to increase lysine, an amino acid, which fights off the spread of the shingles rash on your body. This would include fish, dairy products, red meat, and beans. Foods such as bananas, brewers yeast, and potatoes are a good source of vitamin B to also help fight off the virus. Add lots of fruit and veggies to your diet.

There are certain foods that actually feed the virus. Some of those foods are surprising, such as chocolate, nuts, coffee, soda, and white bread or rice.

It sounds scary and it certainly can be. However, having a physician who will diagnose and treat you at home makes all the difference. Some physicians will do house calls, including: 

  • Dra. Frany Lucia Rubio Losa, Merida Health Travel Care, 999-342-0036
  • Dr. Cesar Sanchez, 552-271-0372

After the diagnosis, expect the unexpected because every person is different. A combination of stabbing pain and burning at the blister site is normal, but don’t be a hero. If you need nerve block medication, talk to your physician. A cool cloth on the blister site is helpful.

The possible list of symptoms includes fatigue, insomnia, nausea, dizziness, headaches, eye pain (if blisters near the eye), burning sensation, sensitivity to light, body aches, joint pain, and lack of appetite which all may last longer than the blisters. 

If blisters are near your eye your physician will advise you to see an ophthalmologist due to the risk of permanent eye damage.

Some people develop a long-term complex symptom called postherpetic neuralgia, which is continued pain from damaged nerve endings. This can last months to years. 

There is a vaccine available, and in Mérida, the one available lasts up to five years. It is recommended for people over 50. The cost varies from 2,495 to 3,992 pesos. It is recommended to wait at least a month after a shingles outbreak before going for the vaccine.

Here are two places in Mérida to go for the vaccine. Call ahead for availability.

  • Clinica de Merida, 999-942-1800
  • Vacunate Altabrisa Millenium, 999-167-9772
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