Eamonn Holmes on his ‘nightmare’ shingles and awareness campaign

After what he described as a “nightmare” and as if he had been “attacked” by a virus, TV presenter Eamonn Holmes called for greater awareness of shingles.

Three years ago, Holmes woke up one morning in unbelievable pain, his face covered in blisters that caused him intense throbbing pain and itching.

A visit to the doctor confirmed Holmes had contracted shingles – a virus he believed to be associated only with women – leaving him temporarily unable to work and affecting his confidence as the face of British television in the breakfast.

But the fact is, anyone over 50 who has had chickenpox is 90% likely to carry the shingles virus – the risk and severity increasing with age due to reduced immunity.

“I was not at all aware of shingles until I had it,” said Holmes, who has partnered with GSK to raise awareness about shingles as part of the Understanding Shingles campaign, which is also supported by the Shingles Support Society.

“It wasn’t on my radar – I thought it was something that happened to women after having children, in the face of the stress of pregnancy and the stress of raising a child. I didn’t think it was happening to me. ‘would affect.

“I have cold sores so I thought that was what it was, but all over my face. It spread all over – I looked like I had been assaulted. was horrible.It was in my eyebrows, my forehead, round my eyes – it was a nightmare.

“I didn’t even know I had chickenpox – I had to phone my 90-year-old mother and ask her.

“What I would tell people is that it’s not something you want to achieve no matter where it is on your body.

“And this campaign is just about raising awareness and knowing if you’re susceptible and knowing what to do about it.”

Along with GSK, Holmes is researching shingles awareness as part of the Understanding Shingles campaign, funded by GSK.

One in four people will get shingles in their lifetime and Holmes wants to educate people about the signs and misconceptions.

He said: “I was taking very heavy antibiotics to treat him, but it was scary.

“People are afraid it’s contagious – they don’t want to come near you – but it’s not contagious at all.

“There’s never a good time to get these things, but it sure wasn’t a good time.

“My child was getting married so it was an important event in the family and I was the father of the groom.

“It was bad because people were spending all their time asking ‘what’s wrong with you? What happened to you?’ and it was my son’s birthday and everyone was talking about me, i was disappointed for him.

“I had to put a little makeup on to try to cover it up, but people could still see it.

“I can’t really look at the wedding photos. I’m standing next to my son, Declan, and I thought he deserved better than that from me.”

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A recent survey sponsored by GSK, revealed one of over 2,000 UK adults, showed significant gaps in understanding shingles.

Knowledge of symptoms, disease, and risk factors tended to be higher among older respondents, but many of those interviewed did not know the basic facts about shingles.

Of those surveyed, only 65% ​​correctly identified shingles as a rash caused by a virus and only 55% associated shingles with pain in an area of ​​the skin, which is one of the most common symptoms.

Shingles is a painful rash caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus (varicella zoster).

In the UK, 90% of adults have had chickenpox and will therefore have this virus dormant in their nervous system.

Yet among all survey participants, only 60% knew that having had chickenpox puts you at risk for shingles.

The risk and severity of shingles increases with age due to a natural decline in immunity as we age, especially in people aged 50 and over.

At the time of his shingles, Holmes was suing HMRC over a £ 250,000 tax bill he had received with stress known to be one of the factors that could cause the virus to arise from his condition. sleeping.

Holmes added: “The trial was horrific. Apart from the sudden death of my father, it was the most heartbreaking experience of my life.

“Plus, for a living people watch me, so of course shingles has undermined my confidence.

“I think the thing that really worried me was if anything would happen to me – that’s the big warning that goes with it.

“It was fear that surrounded him. Not knowing when it was going to end because every day there was a new blister. How is it going to end? When will it all be over? C ‘was painful.

“There was a desire to scratch and itch, which of course you couldn’t do. It was just awful – an absolute nightmare.”

Understanding Shingles is a new campaign supported by Eammon Holmes, GSK and the Shingles Support Society. For more information visit www.understandingshingles.co.uk

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