Glass Medicine Vials and hualuronic collagen and flu syringe. Tinted image.
The horrible itching of chickenpox is one of my first memories. I remember my mother trying to ease my pain with a cold, baking soda bath. Thank goodness, that’s over and I never have to endure chickenpox again!
But wait, our suffering may not be over. We are the ones who can get shingles!
According to educational material by MERCK, the virus that causes chickenpox never leaves your body. Instead it stays in your nervous system, and can re-emerge and cause the shingles rash. You probably know someone who has “cooked” up a good case of shingles during a time of stress (natch!) and has endured significant nerve pain. It’s no picnic.
Fortunately, a second generation shingles vaccine was approved by the FDA in 2017. Trials show that it is 90 percent effective in preventing shingles (herpes zoster).
This vaccine is also recommended for people who have already gotten the live shingles vaccine (Zostavax). There is no live virus in this new vaccine.
Why get vaccinated
The shingles rash can last up to 30 days. Red and blistering, the pain is often described as sharp, shooting and throbbing. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) literature notes that the rash usually appears on one side of the face or body and heals within 2 to 4 weeks. Besides pain, sometimes sever pain, symptoms include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. The pain seems to wrap around the back and chest, over the shoulder and one-half of the head.
Even after the rash goes away, about 1 person in 5, continues to feel severe pain. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN).
Who gets shingles
Although my now 40-year-old son contracted shingles in his twenties, shingles is much more common in people 50 years of age or older. Another whammy, risk increases with age. For example, my grandfather got shingles in his 70s and my mother endured her first of several outbreaks around the same time of life.
That said, shingles is also more common in people whose immune system is weakened due to disease such as cancer, or by drugs such as steroids or chemotherapy. At least I million people a year in the U.S. get shingles.
What to do
As my mother would say, “Hop on the bunny trail” to your healthcare provider to see if you are a good candidate for the new vaccine. Two doses, 2 to 6 months apart, are recommended for adults 50 and older.
You can also get more information from your local or state health department or contact the CDC: Call 1-800-232-4636 or visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines.
Some people should not get this vaccine
The CDC literature warns that some people should not get the vaccine and to be sure and tell your provider if you:
Have any severe, life-threatening allergies
Are pregnant or breastfeeding
Are not feeling well
Risks of the vaccine reaction
I understand my body’s reaction to the two dose vaccine is pretty typical. Each time, I felt like I had a slight temperature, kind of achy and headachy. However, the next day those symptoms gradually decreased and I was able to do my regular activities. Interestingly, side effects are more common in younger people.
Of course, if people suffer any signs of severe allergic reaction to the vaccination, such as hives, high temperature, swelling of the face and throat or fast heartbeat, they should contact their provider or get to the nearest hospital.
For more information about vaccine safety please visit: www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/
My 87-year-old friend Ginny is a good example of how important good friends are. She also personifies the characteristics of what it means to be a good friend.
We met about five years ago while Ginny was still caring for her husband, who had late stage Alzheimer’s. We gravitated toward one another. She needed a friend to lean on and so did I. Every week we went out for coffee and sometimes talked on the phone in between. I drove her to eye appointments and Ginny talked me through some very difficult family problems.
These days our deep, soul-touching friendship continues. We laugh at pain, we share outrageous stories and we offer encouragement on a regular basis. Ginny is also inadvertently teaching me what life will be like in 20 years and how I can accept and deal with the continuing changes of old age. And I see her offer friendship to many lonely people at her assisted living community, asking nothing in return. Ginny is a very good friend!
Let’s take a look at friendship and how at any age we can value and cultivate friendships.
Friendship is money in the bank of life
I love what Ted C. Fishman says in an article he wrote for USA Today about the power of friendship, “Having a close buddy is like making an extra $100,000 a year.”
This attention-getting statement relates to how Fishman describes friendship, “It’s a kind of wealth. Kids who have close friends make more money as adults, and adults who have a friend they see on most days add as much well-being as making an extra $100,000 a year.”
Of course, friendship has many more super-good benefits. Friends help us be more active, more outgoing, more responsible and more health conscious.
A main conclusion of the Grant Study at Harvard, which followed its subjects for 75years, was that strong relationships are the most important ingredient to well-being over a long life. It turns out those friends, just as much as family, can give people the connection they need to stay happy and well.
Characteristics of a great friend
Pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher Charles R. Swindoll once mentioned, “I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.”
Have you talked to a physician via computer and screen? Do you know anyone; say out in the boondocks or with a chronic ailment, who has used what is called telemedicine, telehealth or virtual medicine?
No, not yet? Well, according to an article in the AARP magazine’s Feb/March 2018 issue, boomers and older people will soon be some of the principle users of this new health care trend. Why? Because many of us will have more health issues and need to monitor these conditions before we hit a crisis and run to the emergency room.
Article author David L. Katz, M.D. explains that this new approach to health care will particularly help older patients because it offers the option of bringing a virtual doctor or nurse right into the homes of patients, as frequently as needed, monitoring health and making real-time diagnoses and treatment adjustments.
And, oh yes, follow up research shows that this immediate and on-going care significantly reduces patients rebounding back to hospitals after surgeries or rehab while it significantly decreases the overall cost of care.
The value of virtual care
“Convenience aside, the major value driver of virtual care is the ability to intervene earlier, which often prevents disease progression,” said Randall Moore, M.D., president, Mercy Virtual based in Missouri.
Mercy Virtual was opened in late 2015 and serves a health care system which operates 44 hospitals in the Midwest. Inside the new facility nurses and physicians answer patient questions, make medication adjustments and advise physicians at any of the hospitals, which use the service more during the night hours when staffing is at its most slack.
Taking up the nurse and doctor problem
Speaking of taking up the slack, an article in healthcareitnews.com suggests that virtual care can be a life saver in terms of healthcare’s cost and quality challenges. For starters, even as the older population is on the rise, the number of nurses and physicians stays flat. Simply put, there just aren’t enough of these professionals to go around, especially in rural areas. Secondly, the cost of health care, including trips to the ER, has skyrocketed in the past few decades.
Many in the health care profession welcome virtual health solutions. More institutions, patients and professionals see how this kind of still-very-personal care can help to extend provider’s reach. It can close the care gap that is currently making it difficult to meet value-based care’s call to improve outcomes while simultaneously reducing costs.
Patients get lots of attention
An article in US News & World Report describes how, using an iPad and devices such as a home blood pressure monitor, a 72-year-old patient’s vital signs are constantly transmitted to the Mercy Virtual “command center.” Instead, of on-going crisis and many trips to the ER, the patient’s condition is so well monitored that the team has been able to avoid trips to the ICU.
“We can trend the data on a daily basis and intervene in many cases even before patients experience symptoms,” says Gavin Helton, Mercy’s medical director.
Why patients like virtual health care (AARP Feb/March 2018):
Convenience – Reduces travel time
Help manages chronic conditions – monitors conditions such as diabetes, COPD, high blood pressure
Treat urgent symptoms – get initial appointment fast, from your bed
More efficient – can consult with primary care docs and specialists at the same time
First-class care anywhere – if traveling can access care, coordinate care.
Have you used virtual medicine? What was your experience?