Wintertime comes with its own health challenges. It is flu season in many parts of the world. Other painful conditions, such as shingles, are more likely to return. What can you do to help a partner with shingles? Is this disease contagious? And how does it affect your sex life? [Español]
What Is Shingles?
Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by a virus called varicella zoster (VZV). This virus activates in the bodies of people who have had chickenpox before. If you are older than 25, chances are high you have had chickenpox as a child. Vaccine against this highly infectious disease was introduced in the United States only in 1995.
Shingles shows up on your skin in the form of painful, fluid-filled blisters. It is easy to recognize because the rash is visible only on one side of the body or face. You may also experience flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills.
Can I Get Shingles From my Partner?
If you’ve never had chickenpox and did not receive a vaccination, you are at risk of contracting the varicella zoster virus (chickenpox) from your partner but only if you come in contact with fluid from the blisters. You can’t catch the shingles virus.
The shingles vaccine is 90% effective (if you get the recommended two doses), so there is still a small risk even if you get the shots.
To reduce the risk of infection, your partner should cover the blisters and wash his or her hands often. Once the blisters have dried out, the virus stops spreading. Make sure you keep your personal items, such as towels, separated. If you have had chickenpox in the past, you cannot contract shingles from your partner.
How to Help Your Partner Who Has Shingles?
Seeing your partner in pain may not be easy for you. You may feel helpless, but you are not. Here are some ideas how to help him or her:
- Arrange a medical consultation and medication. Although there is no cure for shingles, medicines such as Acyclovir and Valtrex can ease the symptoms. Both require a prescription. If you don’t have one, consider a safe online consultation with eDrugstore’s licensed physician. Order the prescribed medicines online by clicking here.
- Create a space for him or her to rest. If you can, prepare the meals or order a catering service. Proper nutrition and drinking plenty of fluids will speed up recovery.
- If you are at risk of contracting the virus, talk to the doctor about how to proceed. If you are in one of the high-risk groups (due to your age or health condition), you might want to stay in separate rooms as much as possible. This doesn’t have to mean sacrificing daily contacts and exchanging words of love and encouragement. Use video chats or a plain old phone.
How Shingles Affects Intimacy
Your partner’s shingles can put a halt to your sex life for many weeks. You may wonder if it is even safe to touch and hug. Some men can develop erectile dysfunction because of shingles. The good news is that ED symptoms usually go away once the outbreak ends.
While bedroom fun may not be possible for a while, you should still look for ways to nurture intimacy. If you are not at risk of getting the virus, you can still practice gentle touch, even when the blisters are present. Make sure to have your hands clean and avoid touching the affected area. Shingles tends to appear in the upper body. If this is the case, a relaxing foot massage can be an amazing gift to your partner.
If shingles has caused loss of sensation in the penis, do not panic. For men who have not suffered from ED before, erectile function usually returns after a few days or weeks following the outbreak.
If you both feel ready to resume intercourse and erectile dysfunction remains a problem, ask your doctor about ED medication, such as Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra. This can be a good temporary option until the sexual function returns. Visit eDrugstore here to see available ED treatment options.
Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy women and couples solve their intimate problems.