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Shingles are the little red blisters which apply themselves to the mid-sections of humans, making life inside the house miserable.

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is the chicken pox virus and the bane of many a childhood. It stays on, lying dormant, until stress and a weakened immune system allow it to spring forth in full, red bloom. Herpes zoster may also manifest itself as a cold sore on the lip, or as similar eruptions on other parts of the body best left unmentioned.

As the virus deploys itself along the nerves, the pain generally equals or exceeds that caused by hitting one's thumb with a hammer. Doctors often prescribe two medications: acyclovir, a great horse-tablet of a pill, which is taken every five hours and leads to nausea and an overstuffed feeling; and prednisone, which causes ravenous hunger. Modern medicine is nothing if not tricky.

Old-time ranchers in Wyoming (and probably old-time ranchers elsewhere as well) swear by Scarlet Oil, a noxious substance developed for use on horses and other large animals usually kept outdoors.

A shingles attack usually takes two to three weeks to run its course. During this time, the patient should avoid contact with newborns and pregnant women. This will not present a problem; people with shingles don't feel like socializing anyway.

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