What do you do about friends who think that all people are as immune as they are?!

A friend of mine at college came in the other day looking a bit peaky. She was itching and had some red spots on her body. I asked if she was ok and she said, so casually, ""sure, it's just shingles"". I feel bad now but I recoiled in absolute horror. She had been off for one week do I assumed she just had a cold or something and she would no longer be infectious on her return. But she didn't have a cold, she had SHINGLES. A little-known effect of shingles is the effect on people with asthma. Shingles can affect any organ of your body although it most commonly affects the skin or eyes. A friend of mine who has mild asthma ended up in hospital because she picked up shingles and it affected her lungs because they were inflamed. She 'only' has mild asthma yet she was on oxygen, nebulisers back-to-back, IV steroids and antivirals..

I'm just worried now. I had only just finished a course of Pred. at the time and my asthma control has deteriorated recently so I'm assuming that the inflammation in my lungs is up right now. I generally have a greater susceptibility to infection than my friends as it is and I cannot believe her lax attitude to shingles! She would still be infectious for another week after that conversation!

Should I do something? I want her to realise that she could easily have been putting people at risk and that I'm lucky that so far I haven't contracted it because I could become seriously ill! What do I say to her?!

1 Reply

  • The first thing you need to know is that you can't catch shingles off anyone. Shingles is the same virus as chickenpox. You can get chickenpox off someone who has shingles, but only if you've never had it. What happens is that sometimes the virus that causes chickenpox lodges in the spinal area of the human body after the initial infection. If that happens then at any time during its host's life it may become active again and re-emerge as shingles. Twenty one years ago this happened in my family. My husband (who does not have asthma) had a very mild dose of shingles - it came out on his shoulder. I had chickenpox when I was a child, so wasn't affected by it, but my four year old elder son was - three weeks later he went down with chicken pox. Three weeks after that so did my younger son.

    Ten years later (so completely unconnected to the first episode) I went down with shingles myself, and with me it re-emerged around my rib cage - apparently a common location. I had it worse than my husband, but still not badly. It lasted for about two and a half weeks, and I really didn't feel that bad at all. My GP's (very sensible) advice was to drink plenty of water and to try to eat normally. It was uncomfortable (I needed soft pillows to lean against), and then became very itchy. I felt mildy feverish for a while, but nothing serious - and my asthma wasn't affected by it, or not that I can recall. At the time it was suggested that the fact that I was quite fit physically probably helped (I did - and still do - ballet). As far as the rest of my family was concerned, because they had all had chickenpox when young, no-one caught anything from it.

    Hope this helps to re-assure you.

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