A recent study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology finds that adults with asthma have about a 70% greater risk of developing shingles compared to those without asthma. The researchers also conclude that more consideration should be given to immunizing adults with asthma, especially those ages 50 and over.1
Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body. The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks. Before the rash develops, people often have pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. This may happen anywhere from 1 to 5 days before the rash appears.
Most commonly, the rash occurs in a single stripe around either the left or the right side of the body. In other cases, the rash occurs on one side of the face. In rare cases (usually among people with weakened immune systems), the rash may be more widespread and look similar to a chickenpox rash. Shingles can affect the eye and cause loss of vision. Other symptoms can include fever, chills, headache, and upset stomach.
After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body. For reasons that are not fully known, the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles. Nearly one million shingles cases occur every year in the United States.
This study builds on the authors’ previous research which linked childhood asthma with an increased risk for shingles.2
- Kwon HJ, Bang DW, Kim EN et al. Asthma as a risk factor for zoster in adults: A population-based case-control study. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Published Online: December 28, 2015.
- Kim BS, Mehra S, Yawn B, et al. Increased risk of herpes zoster in children with asthma: A population-based case-control study. Journal of Pediatrics, 2013; 163(3): 816-821.