I was off work sick this week with…
That’s right, I came down with a viral infection during a global pandemic… and not the one everyone was worrying about. I came down with a case of shingles, specifically ophthalmic shingles. It wasn’t much fun, and I didn’t know anything about shingles beyond the name (certainly not enough to recognise it from the symptoms), so I’ll write a bit about my suffering in case it helps you.
First of all, do not image-search for shingles if you are squeamish. There are some really gruesome pictures out there. Thankfully my case ended up being pretty mild.
So, what is shingles? Well, it’s the same virus as chickenpox, and can strike anyone who has had chickenpox—even decades later!—usually as a result of a weakened immune system, but it can also just be totally spontaneous.
We don’t vaccinate against chickenpox in the UK, and 9 out of 10 adults who grew up here had it as children, so most people in the country are at risk of shingles.The NHS believes that vaccinating everyone could increase the risk of serious cases of chickenpox or shingles in adults. Chickenpox is a pretty mild condition in children, so the NHS prefers that everyone gets it as a child and so develops immunity, to the risk of some children missing the vaccine, and not catching it because they’re surrounded by immune people, and then catching it as an adult. In addition, being exposed to active cases of chickenpox boosts the resistance in people who’ve already had it, lessening the chance the virus reactivates and causes shingles. So really, sick children are a force for social good.
Here’s a timeline of my symptoms, and what I thought was going on:
Friday 25th: I noticed three bumps on my forehead in the morning. They looked like insect bites. I thought it was weird to have three in such close proximity; but I thought “well, I sleep on my side, maybe that’s just the side of my head which was exposed.”
Saturday 26th: More bumps. I wondered if I had bedbugs, that would be bad. But then realised probably not, because the bites were all in one half of my forehead, and a couple on the scalp (same half of head), whereas bedbugs would be all over my body.
Sunday 27th: My eye had turned red, and there was a sore bump on the back of my neck, near the ear. I did some research online, and thought that it seemed like viral conjunctivitis: the pink eye and inflamed could-be-a-lymph-node fit, though the forehead bumps did not. Which had continued to get worse. So my working hypothesis changed to “insect bites, which gave me an infection which has caused viral conjunctivitis”.
Monday 28th: My eyelids were stuck together with gunk when I woke up. This is one of the signs your conjunctivitis is particularly bad and you need to talk to a doctor. I panicked a bit at this point, as I’ve not registered with a GP in London yet (I know, I know, I moved down here over two years ago…), but I found MedicSpot, a private clinic which does video appointments and could get a prescription arranged at a pharmacy near me. So I booked an appointment for 10:30 and messaged my line manager to let him know something was up.
The video call was an interesting experience—moving my phone camera around pointing at things and describing what they felt like—and after clarifying some things (that I had had chickenpox in the past and that all the symptoms so far were on the same side of my body), he said “I think it’s shingles”, and explained a bit about what shingles is. A painful itchy rash which goes away in a few weeks, and while I’ve got it I’m capable of spreading chickenpox (not shingles) to people, so I should take care to avoid in particular very young children and pregnant women. “But”, he said, “you’ve got it on your forehead, and that’s quite dangerous; you need to get on antiviral medication right now, and get emergency medical attention if that eye worsens. I’ll write you an urgent prescription, you should get a call in the next 5 minutes about where you’d like to collect it from.”
That made me feel a bit less good about things. I updated my manager, took the whole day as sick leave, and got the prescription. 35 pills, of which I had to take 5 a day, with 4 hours between each pill.
Tuesday 29th: My lower eyelid had become increasingly swollen and sore over Monday, and was disrupting my ability to sleep. At about 4am, I messaged my manager at about 4am and said I wouldn’t be in.
That evening I asked a friend to do some shopping for me, as I thought it would be best to self-isolate even if 9 out of 10 UK adults wouldn’t be able to catch chickenpox from me.
Wednesday 30th: I decided to take the full week off as sick leave, as even with painkillers for the eye the rash was quite itchy and distracting. I spent much of the day with a bag of frozen peas held against my face.
Thursday 1st to Sunday 4th: I relaxed, kept taking my medication, and kept checking on my eye in the mirror. The medication did a very good job stopping the worsening of the condition. No more bumps appeared, the ones there started to scab over without oozing, and the eye gradually became less bloodshot.
As of this morning, my eye is not yet fully recovered. I woke up again with eyelids stuck together with goo. But the bumps are looking pretty good. I’ve got a few scabs, but no new bumps have appeared since starting the medicine. My pills will run out tomorrow. The doctor I spoke to didn’t tell me to call back when I ran out for a check up, so I guess I’ll just keep an eye on things and, if it looks like the shingles are worsening again, get another appointment.
All in all, I wouldn’t recommend shingles. If you are going to come down with a viral infection, go for a cold instead.
This week I read:
Volume 16 of Nana, by Ai Yazawa.
In which we learn dark secrets about Nana’s family… volume 17 hasn’t arrived yet.
On Wednesday I thought “great, multiple days off, I’ll get loads of reading done!” but then I didn’t feel like it at all.
This week I decided to put off my Call of Cthulhu session, so I could put 100% of my effort into relaxing, rather than worrying about doing preparation or whether I’d be able to wear a headset for 3 hours with a painful head rash.
A few more components trickled in this week. The network cabinet is all working now, and has 2U for expansion, which is nice. I decided to go ahead and get a fancy router and access point, which should be here in the next week or so. That’ll take up another 1U.
The brand new WD Green SSD I got for nyarlathotep started having read errors and corrupting data after 6 days of usage, which was less nice. I replaced it with a Samsung 860 EVO which seems to be doing fine.
Despite doubling nyarlathotep’s RAM, I saw it quickly creep back up to about as much percentage usage as it was on before, it seems I’ve got a few RAM-heavy things running on there. So I decided to double the RAM again, bringing it up to 64GB. With that upgrade in place, it’s been hovering around 60% used for a while, which is nice as it means there’s plenty of room for growth as I add more services. Though I’m not sure how it was coping as well as it was when it only had 16GB total previously.
I’m still waiting for the cables to connect the HDD hot-swap bays, but I’ve had a second shipping update and they should be arriving on Friday. It’s all coming together.
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