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Worried I'll catch shingles off dad.

Byline: Dr Elena Douse

Q My elderly father has just been diagnosed with shingles. I am his main carer so I am in very close contact with him. Is it true that I could potentially catch shingles from him? A No, you cannot catch shingles from your father, but you could catch chicken pox if you haven't suffered from this in the past. We usually encounter the varicella zoster virus during childhood, where it gives rise to chicken pox.

Although we make a full recovery from chicken pox, the virus lies dormant in the nerve root endings in our bodies. Later in life, the virus may reactivate, giving rise to shingles. The reactivation of the zoster virus, and resultant shingles, often occurs when patients are unwell, run down or suffering periods of stress. Reactivation usually occurs in one specific nerve.

The virus travels along the nerve to the skin, and affects the patch of skin which is supplied by that nerve. This patch of skin is known as a dermatone. Common dermatones affected by shingles include the patch of skin around the eye, and bands of skin around the abdomen and flank.

However, any dermatone, anywhere on the body can be affected. Typical symptoms include intense pain, tingling and burning over the skin of the affected dermatone, and the development of small, blistered spots known as vesicles. The virus is transmitted via direct contact with the vesicles, so keeping the affected area covered with a large dressing will prevent transmission. So, if you haven't had chicken pox in the past, you will be at risk of contracting this if you are exposed to shingles.

If you have had chicken pox, then you are at no more risk of developing shingles then anyone else.

Freezing's a solution Q My seven-year-old son has nasty verrucae on his feet and we just can't seem to get rid of them. Any tips on how we can successfully treat these? Send your questions to Dr Elena Douse c/o South Wales Echo, Six Park St Cardiff CF10 1XR A Verrucae (warts on the sole of the feet) are common in childhood and are due to infection with the Human Papilloma Virus.

Following contact with the virus, hard skin develops over and around the area, giving rise to the typical unsightly, raised appearance of a wart.

The solutions and paints you can buy from your local pharmacy contain the ingredient salicylic acid. This breaks down the hard skin and destroys the wart tissue.

Before applying the treatments, I advise patients to soak the feet in warm water for five minutes to soften the skin. Apply a coat of verruca gel or paint to the wart and leave overnight. Every few days, take a nail file or pumice stone and file down the wart. This effectively removes a few layers of hard skin, giving the topical treatments a helping hand. Salicylic acid treatment, when applied daily, will usually effectively eradicate the wart within three months. Duct tape, which can be bought from your local DIY store, can also be used to treat verrucae.

Apply the tape to the affected area and remove after six days. Following removal of the duct tape, you should soak and file the verrucae. A fresh strip should be applied the following day and this weekly process should be continued for up to three months. Many patients and parents tire of this treatment regime and prefer cryotherapy. Cryotherapy involves spraying liquid nitrogen onto the wart to destroy the wart tissue.

Following treatment, a small blister will develop and this will fall off after seven days. This "freeze spray" treatment can be uncomfortable and many younger children are unable to tolerate it. Several treatments are sometimes needed for larger warts, but generally, it is a fast way of treating troublesome verrucae.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 8, 2009
Words:637
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