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Shingles unlikely to return after first outbreak

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Contrary to common medical belief, adults who get an outbreak of the skin condition shingles are unlikely to get the condition a second time, according to new research.

The study, published  in the June edition of the Journal of  Infectious Diseases, reviewed health records of 6,000 patients who registered an outbreak of shingles. A very low percentage of those patients registered any further out breaks of shingles after the initial out break.

Due to the prevalence of shingles among adults, there have been calls for an adult vaccination against the condition, however the new study suggests that there is no urgent need for a vaccination as repeated shingles attacks are rare.

Approximately one in four people will develop shingles in their lifetime. It’s most common in older people, although it can also occur in younger people and those with a weakened immune system.

Shingles is a reactivation of the varicella zoster virus infection that causes chickenpox. After a person, usually a child, has had chickenpox the virus remains in their body, lying dormant or hidden in part of the nervous system.

Often many years later, the virus travels back down one of the nerves to the skin, where it causes an itchy rash and skin blistering in the area of skin supplied by that nerve.

While there are no specific causes linked to an outbreak of shingles later in life, changes in the immune system of the body such as an infection or other virus, or emotional of physical trauma have been identified as being possible triggers

The first sign of shingles is usually excessively sensitive, tingling or burning skin where the shingles rash subsequently appears. The area is often painful. At the same time, you may experience fever, headache and enlarged lymph nodes.

After a few days, the shingles rash appears as a band or patch of red spots on the side of the body or on the face. Shingles rashes usually only appear on one side of the face or body only. The rash develops into fluid-filled blisters that then collapse, forming small ulcers.

 Treatments for shingles

Shingles is a virus so anti-viral ointments or balms are helpful for reducing symptoms and shortening the duration of the outbreak. Liquorice  has is a strong anti-viral effect, so balms or creams containing high levels of liquorice can help with shingles.

Shingles is also extremely itchy so any soothing creams or ointments designed for calming down inflamed skin and reducing itching are the most helpful treatments for this skin condition. Skin ointments containing the plant extract Cardiospermum has been shown in medical trials to be highly effective at reducing intense skin itching.

Bathing in bath treatments that help sooth and calm itchy skin can also help the condition and aide more restful sleep. Oat bath products are effective for soaking and soothing very itchy skin rashes.

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