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Diving after Shingles

Discussion in 'Diving Medicine' started by Graeme Fraser, Nov 28, 2020.

  1. Graeme Fraser

    Graeme Fraser Tech Instructor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Narnia
    I'm just getting over a bout of Shingles and wanted to know if there were any particular dive related concerns and how long after symptoms have subsided should I leave it before resuming activities.

    As background, I'm a reasonably fit 54 year old with no known medical issues and, aside from Chickenpox as a child, have never suffered from this in the past.

    Symptoms started about two weeks ago with tingling and mild numbness around my right lower waist. After a few days a rash appeared further to the right and the surrounding area became very sensitive and sore, with occasional 'stabing' pains. I then noticed the gland near my groin was swollen and tender and contacted my GP. She diagnosed Shingles and prescribed Acyclovir. Unfortunately as I'd left it more than 3 days after symptoms appeared, she confirmed that the anti-viral treatment may not be as effective.

    Obviously I won't undertake any dive activities before I'm completely symptom free, but wanted to know if there were any specific hyperbaric considerations meaning I should abstain for a longer period. My diving activities include inshore commercial and tech instruction.

    Thank you in advance and apologies for the rambling post.
  2. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    Did you try contacting DAN about this?
    ontdiver, Bob DBF and Graeme Fraser like this.
  3. divinh

    divinh ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: San Francisco
    Seven years ago, I got shingles. I didn't have any tingling or mild numbness. The first thing I noticed was a rash that spread on one half of my upper torso, as typically described in lists of symptoms. By the time I suspected shingles, it had already been a week and I contacted my doctor to get an appointment, which didn't happen for another week or two. I was prescribed an anti-viral for a week duration. I don't know if getting the anti-viral sooner would have matter, as in my case, it seemed like things were going through the typical course.

    The rash blistered and the blisters eventually broke and leaked a gross liquid mess. The blistered skin scabbed and eventually the scabbing rubbed off while showering or sleeping. The new skin underneath was red and tender, so it hurt if touched, so I imagine you'd want to avoid wearing a wetsuit until the skin heals enough so that it's not overly sensitive. Wearing a wetsuit during the scabbing phase probably isn't a good idea either.

    For me, I think it took a few months before the skin healed well. I still have some scarring but it's a lot less than the area the rash originally covered.

    I didn't resume diving for three years, but that was just due to other trips planned, not trying to avoid diving.
    Graeme Fraser and chillyinCanada like this.
  4. Graeme Fraser

    Graeme Fraser Tech Instructor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Narnia
    Thanks. I did look at DAN's Europe website, but I'm not a member and they state that 'specialised medical advice is reserved to active DAN members', which is understandable.
    chillyinCanada likes this.
  5. Graeme Fraser

    Graeme Fraser Tech Instructor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Narnia
    Thanks. Yes currently waiting for the gross pussy fluid stage. The misses is thrilled about that!

    Good point about the wetsuit. I only use a drysuit for open water, but I'll definitely leave it a good while before doing any pool duties, for other people's sake as much as mine.
    divinh and chillyinCanada like this.
  6. Marie13

    Marie13 Great Lakes Mermaid ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Great Lakes
    I had a bad case of shingles 2.5 years ago. My issue was extreme left leg weakness. My left leg wouldn’t come into my car. I’d have to physically grab it with my hands to get it into car. I had 10 sessions of physical therapy. I was diving maybe 6 weeks later. It had happened during off season (winter) in the Midwest.

    If you haven’t gotten the shingles vaccine yet, suggest you do. It’s called Shingrix (I think). It’s intended for those 50 and over. Two doses. The old one was meant for those 60 and over. My GP said I had to wait a year after having shingles to get the vaccine. I had shingles when I was 49.
  7. Graeme Fraser

    Graeme Fraser Tech Instructor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Narnia
    Good idea about the jab. From my limited knowledge there's no guarantee I won't get it again, so might as well be proactive. Thanks. G
    Marie13 and chillyinCanada like this.
  8. JulieM

    JulieM Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: St. George,Utah
    I had the shingles vaccine of two doses Shingrix. Mild side effects after the first shot and in bed flu like symptoms after the second dose. I have had a very mild case of shingles which I caught within 24 hours so medication worked great. Even with the side effects I would encourage the vaccine.
    davehicks and Graeme Fraser like this.
  9. GreggS

    GreggS Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Thomasville, NC
    I had a very mild case which was mostly a couple of small patches on my right arm. It never really bothered me much other than some itching. I continued to dive it was so mild. Went to the doctor and he confirmed it was shingles. I've since had one vaccine shot and had no reoccurrence and hopefully I won't. I have a semi-annual check-up with my doctor in February so I might try to remember asking him if I need a second one.

    A former classmate of my wife had a really bad case which covered her entire face at about the same time. I wouldn't wish that on anybody.
    Graeme Fraser likes this.
  10. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    This won't answer Graeme's question, but it may serve as a warning for others out there.

    I felt as if I had cut my head somehow, in my scalp. I wondered how on Earth I had done that, but when my wife looked at it, she did not see a thing. Later that day, I was walking across a parking lot and a light breeze blew my hair a little. It hurt. I am usually quite the opposite of a hypochondriac, but if there is anything I know about medicine, it is that a light breeze blowing your hair should not hurt. I immediately called the doctor and got an appointment for a couple hours later, although not with my regular doctor. I told the nurse what had happened, and I believe she thought I was crazy. When I told the doctor, though, he immediately diagnosed shingles and put me on antivirals. He said that by getting on them so very early (within 24 hours of the first mild symptom), I had a good chance of beating it, and I did. My case was extremely mild.

    • I always thought of shingles as a disease of the elderly, but I know people who have gotten it in their 20s-40s, with some of the cases pretty severe.
    • When you get some strange symptom and you realize it is not normal (like a breeze hurting your hair; a rash appearing for no apparent reason), don't ignore it. Pay attention, and don't wait until things get severe. If you catch it early, you may escape a lot of pain.
    • Get the vaccine!
    RyanT and Graeme Fraser like this.

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