I got diagnosed with shingles recently, which started out as a tiny cluster of red bumps on my lower back that John confidently described as the result of “some sort of bug that got you while you were sleeping” (why that specific scenario, which is basically custom designed to induce anxious thoughts of a wee-hour descension of, what, fire ants? Here I was hoping for a quick dismissal of my rash-related concern, but no, now I have to imagine the trail of ants marching to my unsuspecting snoring body then lining up, one by one, to take a bite, like the lady-slapping scene in Airplane) then rapidly expanded and crept around one side of my torso until I reluctantly went to the walk-in clinic where a way-too-excitable doctor took one look at my hiked-up shirt and said “Classic shingles. Just classic,” which initially made me weirdly proud (CLASSIC!) then I was like, wait, aren’t shingles supposed to be bad? What I knew about shingles was pretty much limited to seeing those HEY OLD PEOPLE, GET YER SHINGLES VACCINE signs outside of drugstores combined with a vague association with roofing materials but I am now deeply informed about the matter: you can get shingles after you have the chicken pox, because the chicken pox virus lays dormant in your system for thousands of years until a Mysterious Event triggers it to re-animate as the greyscale skin disease from Game of Thrones.

Okay, I might not have that 100% right — to be honest I found the explanation baffling and kind of got distracted by the fact that it’s also known as herpes zoster, which would be the worst stripper name ever — but I can tell you that shingles is pretty damn uncomfortable, although I never had the kind of crippling agony you hear about so either I have an impressive tolerance for pain (unlikely, I’m not sure I am known for my stoic endurance) (cross-reference: literally seventeen years of complaining via blog post) or I got lucky with a mild case.

I did get prescribed a round of antivirals which I took for maybe three and a half days before deciding the side effects weren’t worth it. Probably you’re not supposed to, like, just stop taking stuff, but let’s be honest, I don’t exactly have a great history with following the rules regarding self-administering medication BUT ANYWAY I feel much better now and all the rashy business has morphed into fading scabs (CLASSIC!) and there’s your PSA of the day: you can be only kind of old and still get shingles, which I will thank you not to refer to as “back herpes.”


15 Responses to “Don’t be rash, now”

  1. Karen on March 21st, 2019 1:25 pm

    I got shingles when I was 14. The doctor was baffled, this was a) an old people’s disease, or b) triggered by extreme stress. I looked pointedly at my mother when the doctor mentioned “stress” but she seemed oblivious.

    FWIW my current doc only gives me two doses of an antiviral to take when I have a flareup (which is very rare), so maybe you’re good? I’m not even an internet doctor, so maybe don’t listen to me. Glad you’re feeling better!

  2. Chris on March 21st, 2019 7:31 pm

    I got it four years ago at age 29 due to stress. It was awful. I definitely still have phantom pain on that nerve line and it freaks me out thinking it’s back again. I didn’t even know there was a vaccine for it at the time. :(

  3. Elissa Casey on March 21st, 2019 8:59 pm

    I had shingles at the age of 21 due to extreme stress – 9 people in my life died in one year. It took a good 6 months for the nerve pain to go away. It was horrible! I am glad that yours cleared up quickly!

  4. Lynn on March 22nd, 2019 9:21 am

    I’m 33 and I just had shingles a few weeks ago! It was mild for me as well – just a few days of feeling unwell and feverish before the rash started, and then being extremely tired for a day or two. No itching, no pain worth to mention. So yay, us!

  5. Liz on March 22nd, 2019 12:00 pm

    I had shingles at 29. I believe my doctor’s exact response when I said “but are you sure?” was “Take a picture and medical students could study off you. It’s shingles.” I had zero pain. My only symptom besides an itchy rash on the right side of my belly button (preceded by a strange numb patch on my thigh, corresponding to the sensory dermatome of the spinal nerve root that was affected; yay neuroanatomy!) was sleeping like 10 hours a night, NOT my norm. It was kind of awesome. But I don’t want it again.

  6. Shawna on March 22nd, 2019 1:51 pm

    Yeah, so I knew a few people my age who’d gotten shingles so I mentioned it to my doctor. She looked at me sternly from under the steely-gray helmet of hair she’s worn, looking old but entirely unchanged for the last 20 years she’s been my doctor, and said dismissively that I wouldn’t need any sort of vaccine for another couple of decades. I’m lucky I didn’t get it after that portentous conversation, and these comments are convincing me still further that she was wrong.

  7. JOANN FARNHAM on March 22nd, 2019 4:07 pm

    I had shingles a year ago, and I remember how it felt to have even my shirt touching the area. I had them around both sides of my torso. It cleared up pretty quickly on its own, so I guess I didn’t have a severe case, but… yeah. I don’t want to get it again!

  8. Ellen Morris Prewitt on March 22nd, 2019 6:29 pm

    I just started the vaccine process. (We’ve been asking about it FOREVER, but the supply’s out.) My sister had it, which upped my chances of getting it (I think—like you, I’m a little fuzzy), so hope it works. Glad you are feeling better.

  9. Jules on March 22nd, 2019 8:07 pm

    Chicken pox is the only “childhood” ailment I suffered. Oh it was at the ripe old age of 19, it floored me for two weeks, I have the scars still, cos f%$* it, I was scratching like a crazy woman. My medic has advised I get the vaccine, but I’m all screw you 21st century prevention , imma gonna ride this one out.

  10. Shauna on March 25th, 2019 8:18 am

    I got shingles about a week after 9/11; the doctor took half a glance at the 3 dots on my stomach and said dismissively, “Shingles. Happens to the elderly and those with severely compromised immune systems.”

    I was 27 at the time, so that explanation was not comforting, to say the least.

  11. Melissa on March 26th, 2019 6:09 am

    My 3 year old had shingles when she was between chicken pox vaccine shots. So weird for a toddler and she didn’t really complain too much, so I don’t think she had the severe pain Terry Bradshaw talks about. Glad you’re on the mend.

  12. charlene on March 26th, 2019 9:05 am

    I had another form of it. Bell’s Palsy which causes your face to droop on one side. Extreme stress or compromised immune system was the reason. Nothing like taping your eye shut.

  13. Shes on April 2nd, 2019 8:11 am

    I have had it twice as an adult (I also had chicken pox twice as a child, which I thought was impossible). Once terribly, and another time not as severe. So beware, it may return! I asked my doc about the vaccine, but he said I was too young (currently 42, and this was at least 15-20 years ago). I’m like, how many times do I have to get it before I’m old enough for the vaccine? Sheesh, hope it stays away for you…..

  14. Marta on April 3rd, 2019 6:59 pm

    Totally random and unrelated but I saw what appears to be your photo with baby Dylan ? on twentytwowords. The title of the article is “39 photos that exist as proof of the fact that you need to check the background before snapping a picture”. You now have Facebook article celebrity status. ;-)

  15. Wanda on April 26th, 2019 4:39 pm

    I feel your pain…I had shingles at the end if last year. Like you, it started as a rash, I thought I’d been bite by something and waited a couple days to ask the dr at a check up. She said shingles immediately and u was like, but I’m not that old.

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