That’s how Kristy Cottrell described shingles, and why she encourages anyone over 60 to get the shingles vaccine.
“The most common complaint of shingles is severe pain where the rash is,” said Cottrell, a registered nurse and the division director over Family Health and Senior Services for the Davis County Health Department. “It can be debilitating and there’s no treatment or cure for the pain.”
One in three people over 60 will get shingles, she said, and while the one-time immunization is not 100 percent guaranteed to prevent it, if you have had the shot and do get a case of shingles, it is generally less severe.
People who have experienced it “would have done anything” to avoid it, she said.
Another reason to be up to date on vaccinations, according to Cottrell, is to protect those around you.
“If I have a higher vaccine rate in my community,” said Cottrell, “we are less likely to have diseases in the community. We can create a healthier Davis County.”
Cottrell is concerned that statistics show a 20 percent decline in the number of seniors over 65 who got the influenza shot, an immunization she said is needed annually. In 2007, 76 percent of seniors in Davis County were immunized but 2013, only 57.4 percent got the shots.
In an average year, 28,000 to 35,000 Americans die due to influenza complications, she said, “and seniors are at a particularly high risk.”
Cottrell also recommends seniors get the pneumococcal vaccine, known to some as the pneumonia vaccine.
Recently, the shot has been given in two doses of different varieties at least six months apart, she said. Those who had the first should talk to their doctors about the second. The vaccine is intended to prevent pneumonia, meningitis and blood infections.
Seniors need to keep up on their tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis boosters as well, said Cottrell.
“Make sure you have that pertussis component,” she said. When grandparents are around young children, if they are not protected and become ill, they can pass the disease – which was once called the 100-day cough disease -- to children who are also very vulnerable.
“We need to remind people that at their annual physical, they should ask their doctor what shots they need to help them be protected, so everyone’s protected,” she said. “It’s one more tool.”