Dear Dr. Roach: I have never had the shingles, nor even chickenpox. I couldn’t find a record of it, even in my baby book. Do I need to have the shingles shot? I am over 70 and take several medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Dear C.S.: I recommend the shingles vaccine to someone in your situation, despite the fact that the shingles vaccine isn’t perfect. In the initial trial that got the vaccine approved, following almost 40,000 adults over 60, 3.3 percent who did not receive the vaccine got shingles in three years, and 1.6 percent of those who received the vaccine developed shingles. However, for the dreaded complication of post-herpetic neuralgia, having the vaccine reduced the risk from 0.6 percent to 0.2 percent in people over 70. Most people over 70 have had chickenpox.
Sometimes the disease is so mild that it can go unrecognized. But both people who have and have not had chickenpox should get the vaccine. People with conditions weakening their immune system should not get the vaccine. The absolute benefits of 1.7 percent reduction in developing shingles, plus the 0.4 percent reduction in post-herpetic neuralgia are not very large. About 50 people would need to be vaccinated to prevent one bad outcome in three years.
Over a long time, however, the benefit is likely to get more impressive. More importantly, the risk of the vaccine is small. The major adverse events have been headache and sore arm. In my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the risks, and by vaccinating a lot of people, some cases of shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia can be prevented.
Having seen how devastating post-herpetic neuralgia can be in an older person, I think it is worth it.
Dear Abby: My fiance, “Jasper,” says I’m weird for talking to my daughter while driving to work and 90 percent of the time on my commute home. She’s a young mother with a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old. Her husband is “difficult,” and there are also some personal issues — but I am proud of how well she’s doing.
I work full time and she works part time, so even though we live in the same town, we don’t see each other as often as we’d like. At 25, she is growing into my best friend, and I love helping her through decisions, etc. I don’t agree that this is weird at all. I believe most mothers and daughters do this.
How can I get through to my fiance that this is normal? Even if it weren’t, it isn’t getting in his way or taking anything away from him. Don’t you agree he should just let it be?
Dear Good Mother: Yes, I do. If your fiance had said he was concerned you might get into an accident because your conversations were distracting, I would answer differently. However, that he would label your closeness to your daughter “weird” makes me wonder if he might be jealous of the bond you two share. Are you giving him his fair share of your attention?
Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.