Shingles are bad; shot is less bad

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

When I was growing up, my mother made sure that I got every vaccine available and kept good records of all my shots.

She was a meticulous keeper of records, which, after being turned over to me, were temporarily misplaced in one of the closets or drawers, where they safely remain - somewhere.

My wife and I have done the same with our children as my mother did with me - followed an outlined vaccination schedule.

I look at vaccinations like I look at car seatbelts. Using them increases your chances of survival, even if they have to hurt you while saving your life.

Which is why I decided to get a shingles vaccines recently.

I have never gotten the shingles, but I hear that it’s not very comfortable. I have seen photos and heard testimony from people who have suffered through it. I didn’t want to be one of those, so I made an appointment for a Thursday.

I have never had any reaction to a vaccination. The nurse went through all the mandatory explanations of what side effects the shot may cause. I didn’t pay much attention. I don’t get side effects.

I should say I didn’t get any - in the past - but then the shingles shot kicked in.

I’m not a very good patient - haven’t had much practice being sick or feeling bad. All of a sudden, I started feeling cold. My head and joints were aching. I felt nauseous.

I must have gotten sick at the clinic, I thought, but I didn’t have close contact with anyone. I was only waiting about 5 minutes before being called to the room where the shot was administered. Nobody around me sneezed.

The nice nurse was worried about the shot itself hurting as she gave it to me. It’s not like I have never gotten a shot in the arm. She had very good bedside manners (in a manner of speaking). And, she gave me a sheet of paper explaining the possible side effects, which I appropriately misplaced.

On Friday morning, it was obvious that I was sick. I found the instructions sheet from the nurse, and it became clear that I was experiencing all the possible side effects of the shot.

I still went places and did things with the help of two Advil every four hours. They were not all that effective, but it was better than nothing.

It did control my body temperature. As soon as it wore off, I started being cold and achy again. This is for the birds, I thought. Maybe not even for them. If birds felt this way, they’d have a hard time flying.

If this is how it feels after the shot, I wonder how people who come down with a full blown case of shingles feel like?

“It took me two weeks to get over it,” offered an acquaintance. “It was horrible. Some people have it for a month.”

If you’ve ever had the chickenpox (and almost all adults have), there’s a good chance the virus is still at large in your body. It can lie dormant for decades without causing any symptoms. In some people, the virus wakes up and travels along nerve fibers to the skin. The result is a distinctive, painful rash called shingles.

Those who come down with it remain contagious and can spread the virus when blisters are forming and until all of the blisters have crusted over. The rash may heal in about two to four weeks, and some skin areas may scar.

By Saturday, I was pretty much back to normal, and by Sunday, completely normal.

I’ll go back in a few months to get a second shot, and then I’ll be set for five years. I’m glad now that I did it. Feeling the crud from the mini-shingles is much better than feeling the full-blown one.