Ways on How to Spot and Treat Shingles in the Elderly

Shingles, or clinically known as herpes zoster, may appear as a harmless skin condition to many, but it can lead to major health problems in seniors. It should be detected and treated as a painful skin condition to avoid further complications.

The varicella-zoster virus is the parent virus that causes chickenpox in children and possibly shingles in adults. The virus lives and lingers in some nerve cells after a person recovers from chickenpox. It remains inactive in the majority of adults who have had chickenpox and will not get shingles later. However, one out of every three adults is vulnerable to the varicella-zoster virus reactivating and developing shingles.

When shingles emerges, older persons, particularly those over the age of 60, are at a higher risk of medical complications. Since the elderlys’ immune systems naturally deteriorate as they become older, making it more difficult for their bodies to combat illnesses such as shingles. If left untreated, the complications associated with shingles might be fatal.

Below are ways to identify shingles in the elderly and assist in their treatment and recovery.


Methods Caregivers Use to Recognize Shingles Symptoms

Early detection and medical action are crucial for shingles in elders. This is to resolve and avoid significant consequences. 

Itchy rashes may appear in a single spot on the body, such as the torso or face, and is known as shingles rash. The senior may have pain before the rash occurs, as well as persistent agony after the skin irritation has subsided.

Skin that has been irritated becomes extremely sensitive to the touch. Even a tiny breeze or touch can cause excruciating discomfort for some people who are suffering from shingles. Chills, fever, and headaches are also common shingles symptoms. The senior may feel sick as well.

A senior suffering from shingles may experience symptoms such as tingling or numbness of the skin before acquiring the rash. Within a few days of the rash, fluid-filled blisters appear. Place special attention on blisters near the eye since they require immediate medical attention. This is because they can result in long-term eye damage or possibly blindness.

These symptoms are more severe in the elderly than in younger people, and they should be addressed as soon as possible to avoid the onset of chronic pain. Three days after the first symptoms arise, the senior should consult a doctor for a medical checkup.


How Caregivers Can Assist Seniors with Shingles

For elders suffering from shingles, antiviral medicine is the first line of protection. There are three types of antiviral medications: acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir.

Seniors with minor shingles pain can take over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil. However, development of serious pain may require corticosteroids or narcotic pain relievers; these prescriptive solutions should be carefully considered since they may interact negatively with other drugs the senior is taking.

Wearing loose-fitting garments—especially clothing made of natural fibers—will provide comfort to aging folks in addition to taking prescription drugs. Calamine lotion can be used to soothe itchy skin, and caregivers can give the senior an oatmeal bath as a relaxing treatment.

The affected skin should be kept clean. To relieve pain, apply a cool washcloth to the senior’s skin; the cloth can also be used to dry the blisters. Caregivers should keep an eye on the senior to make sure they don’t scratch the blisters, which might cause infection or scarring.



Relaxation and appropriate rest are also important aspects of pain management. Caregivers may encourage activities such as watching TV, reading, doing crafts, or working in the backyard garden to distract the senior from their shingles pain. Truly, having company is one way to manage shingles’ difficulties one routine at a time.

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