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Over 50? This is Why You Need the Shingles Vaccine.

Monday , October 26 , 2020

Over 50? This is Why You Need the Shingles Vaccine.

These days, everyone is talking about a vaccine for Covid-19. When will it arrive? Will it be effective? Will it be safe for everyone?

But we have something else on our minds: Shingles.

For older adults, the risk of developing the rash increases with age. Other factors, such as being infected with chickenpox early in life or being immuncompromised, also add to the risk.

That’s why experts recommend that anyone over the age of 50 receive the shingles vaccine.

Keep reading to learn more about shingles and how you can protect yourself:

What is Shingles? 

According to the CDC, shingles usually develops as a stripe across one side of the body or face. People may feel pain, itching, or tingling for a few days before the rash actually appears. Other symptoms may include fever, chills, headache, and upset stomach.

A few days after the rash appears, it turns into fluid-filled blisters, like chickenpox. They usually scab up after 7 – 10 days and will fully clear up a few weeks after that.

Even after the painful rash has died down, the after affects can be even worse.

The most common complaint post-shingles is something called postherpetic neuralgia – nerve pain at the site of the rash that typically lasts for 90 days or more.

Dr. David Hrncir, an allergist-immunologist at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, says, “The older you are when you get shingles, the more likely it is you’ll develop post-herpetic neuralgia, or PHN, and have longer-lasting and severe pain. The pain is not easily treated. So you’re left with constant pain that can significantly affect quality of life.”

A less common complication involves the eyes and can result in pain, scarring, and (in rare cases) vision loss.

Who’s at Risk?

Who’s in danger of developing shingles? Anyone who’s had chickenpox, though those who experienced the virus before 18-months are at higher risk.

Shingles is an activation of the varicella zoster virus, the same bug that causes chickenpox. After chickenpox clears, the virus lays dormant in your body for the rest of your life. Although it’s not clear why, the virus may reactivate many years later as shingles.

Experts say that 1 in 3 people will develop shingles in their lifetime, usually after the age of 50. Though some younger adults do develop the illness, it’s far less common.

If you do have shingles, direct contact with the fluid from a blister can cause infection in other people, even those who have not had chickenpox. The risk of spreading the virus is low if you keep the blisters covered.

Vaccine Options

Up until the summer of 2020, there were two options for the shingles vaccine: Zostovax and Shingrix.

Shingrix was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 and is the preferred alternative to Zostovax, which was approved in 2006.

Both vaccines are approved for adults over the age of 50 for the prevention of shingles, whether you’ve already had the virus or not. Here’s how they’re different:

  • Zostovax is a live vaccine given as a single injection, usually in the upper arm, and has been shown to offer protection against shingles for up to five years. As of July 2020, Zostovax is no longer available in the U.S., but may be available in other countries.

  • Shingrix is a nonliving vaccine made of a virus component. It’s given in two doses, two to six months apart. Studies show that Shingrix provides protection against shingles beyond five years, and it is recommended for adults over 50, even if they’ve already received Zostovax.

The most common side effects of either vaccine are redness, tenderness, swelling, and itching at the site of injection. Some people report getting a mild chickenpox-like rash.

The CDC offers recommendations about people who should not get the shingles vaccine.

Good to know: Shingrix costs about $280 for both shots combined. Medicare covers Shingrix under Part D.

Final Thoughts

If you’re considering getting the shingles vaccine, talk to your doctor about the possible risks and benefits in your specific situation. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines.

Posted in: Health

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Preventing the Spread of Covid-19 During Winter Months

Monday , October 19 , 2020

Preventing the Spread of Covid-19 During Winter Months

As we near winter in North America where the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging, one thing has become glaringly obvious: Cold weather will make things much, much worse.

Historically, viruses like the seasonal flu peak during the late fall and winter months (last year in the U.S., there were 40 times more cases in the fall and winter than during the spring and summer). If Covid-19 follows the same pattern, we could be facing at least another 300,000 deaths in the U.S. in coming months.

Though these numbers are scary, there are several steps you can take to help protect yourself and others during the coming months.

Keep reading for some simple tips and tricks:

 

Prevent Getting Sick

Covid-19 is thought to spread person-to-person, mainly through respiratory droplets in the air. Unfortunately, the dry winter atmosphere makes it possible for those droplets to remain in the air for longer periods of time – even after the sick individual has left the room.

The best way to avoid getting ill is to stay in your home and limit face-to-face interactions with other people as much as possible. Since that is not always feasible, help keep yourself safe by following these simple precautions from the CDC:

  •  Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid close contact with other people, even inside your home. A distance of at least six feet (about two arms-length) is suggested.
  • Wear a face mask when in public and around others who are not a part of your household. Continue to keep a six-foot distance between yourself and others, even when wearing a mask.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of your elbow. Immediately wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
  • Minimize social gatherings – Stay connected with friends and family who don’t live in your home by calling, using video chat, or interacting on social media.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (phones, doorknobs, light switches, etc.) daily with soap and water and then an approved disinfectant.
  • Get a flu shot to help save health resources for those infected with Covid-19 and to help protect yourself from the seasonal flu.

Beware “Covid Fatigue”

As we near our second year of the pandemic, many people feel like they have “done enough” to protect themselves from the virus. They’ve spent months social distancing, wearing a mask, and working from home. And they’re tired of it.

Officials are dubbing this phenomenon “Covid Fatigue” – and they’re warning the public to remain vigilant.

Dr. Claude Mellins, a medical psychologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, says that it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t forever. “We’re gonna get through this,” she said. “That’s the first message of any disaster. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to be unchanged, but we will get through it.”

As we try to navigate the next few months, it’s important to keep Dr. Mellins words in mind. Getting through this winter certainly won’t be easy, but knowing there is an end in site will make it more bearable.

Stay safe and keep healthy.

Posted in: Aging

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Tips to Help Seniors Avoid Hospitalization

Monday , August 3 , 2020

Tips to Help Seniors Avoid Hospitalization

Hospitals are usually thought of as a safe place where people can go for help when they’re sick or injured. But for older adults, even a short hospital stay presents risks such as medical errors, medication mistakes, or falls.

Add in the Covid-19 pandemic, and the risks are even greater.

Luckily, there are several things you can do to help keep safe at home – and to help keep you or your older loved ones out of the hospital. Here are our top tips:

Ramp up Physical Activity

Many seniors tend to reduce their physical activity as they age, leading to increased fall risk, poor mobility, decreased immunity, and more. But the benefits of physical activity for older adults are well documented – just a small amount of daily exercise can lower the risk of many common physical and mental health issues. Try adding in a simple daily walk or some stretching and reap the benefits!

Reduce Your Fall Risk

A fall at home can quickly land you in the hospital, but there are several things you can do to help reduce the risk. In addition to physical exercise, try the following:

  • Reduce clutter
  • Repair or remove tripping hazards
  • Install grab bars and handrails
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing
  • Keep rooms and hallways well lit
  • Wear non-slip shoes
  • Move around carefully!

Eat Well

Vitamins and minerals play a big part in keeping our bodies strong and fit, and many common health issues can be avoided simply by practicing proper nutrition. Here are four nutrients you should take care to include in your diet, especially as you age:

  • Vitamin B12 plays a key role in brain and nervous system functions. It can be found in fish, eggs, poultry, meat, and milk.
  • Fiber helps keep you regular and lessens the risk of heart attacks and heart disease. Most fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, and whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas are a great source as well.
  • Potassium has many functions in the body, such as regulating water balance and aiding in muscle contraction. You can find it in beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, yogurt, and more.
  • Calcium and Vitamin D are important for maintaining bone density as we age. Calcium can be found in dairy products, dark leafy greens, and almonds. Pair it with a Vitamin D supplement for best results!

Keep Track of Medications

People aged 60 – 65 take an average of 15 prescription medications per year. Those over 80 take an average of 18. Not only are all these medications expensive, they can bring on adverse effects when not effectively managed. When you or an older loved on get a new medication, make sure to speak to the pharmacist about any side effects and how it might interact with an existing medication.

Stay in Touch with Friends

Loneliness can have a strong impact on both our mental and physical health. Socializing may seem difficult during the age of Covid-19, but it’s not impossible. Take part in social-distanced gatherings with friends or loved ones by taking a walk in the park or gathering on the lawn for a chat. Or consider utilizing technology for video chats, online book clubs, or even virtual game nights!

Ask People to Wash Their Hands

While we’re on the subject of Covid-19, let’s discuss cleanliness! If you must interact with others, make sure all people who come into your home wash or sanitize their hands as they enter and that they wear a mask. This includes medical professionals and home health aides!

Get Your Flu Shot

Flu season is quickly approaching and that means vaccines will soon be available. The CDC recommends that older adults get the shot in September or October for maximum effectiveness. It is recommended that seniors visit their doctor to first make sure they are healthy enough to receive the shot, and that they ask any regular visitors to their homes to receive the shot as well.

Don’t Ignore Symptoms

Many older adults end up in the hospital from illnesses that could have been easily handled at home with early diagnosis. Don’t ignore symptoms for fear of going to the doctor or because you think you can recover on your own. Many simple complaints, such as sore muscles or light headedness, can be signs of more serious issues.

ComForCare caregivers can help with companionship, disability support, grooming & hygiene, and much more. If you would like help living more comfortably at home, please reach out to speak with us about setting up a home care assessment today.

Posted in: Health

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