EXCLUSIVE: Loose Women’s Janet Street-Porter ‘super anxious’ about her skin after shingles diagnosis

Loose Women’s Janet Street-Porter has revealed she feels ‘super anxious’ about her skin after suffering with shingles which she first though was just mosquito bites

Working hard producing and presenting TV shows, Janet Street-Porter was used to running on empty.

A non-stop schedule meant rest was not an option and she certainly didn’t have time to be sick. So in her late 40s, at a busy point in her career, she put a painful rash that started to develop around her waist down to mosquitos. “I’ve got really sensitive skin and if anything bites me I’ll come out in a big, hard lump,” explains the 76 year old. “When the rash started I thought something had bitten me.”

But to her surprise, Janet was diagnosed with shingles, a viral infection that causes a painful rash. She was told to rest and was given a liquid to paint on the rash. “I couldn’t believe it was shingles at first,” she says. “I couldn’t even bear my knickers and clothes touching the area. I didn’t know what to do. I became very emotional because you can’t stop the pain.

“It’s tingling nerve pain and it does your head in. Then you get this scab and it takes weeks to go. The liquid they gave me stung and felt like acid – though this was 30 years ago. My doctor told me to do as little as possible, but I couldn’t stop work as I was contracted to present shows.”

Janet Street-Porter

Janet was told to rest, but she couldn’t stop working 
Image:
Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

“Having shingles threw me because with other problems I’ve had, you can see a path to recovery. But you get shingles and you’re told to do nothing.” Unusually, Janet, who remembers having chickenpox as a child, went on to develop shingles again in 2012. “It was mild compared to the first time and it cleared up relatively quickly.”

There was also a false alarm between cases. Janet, by now “super anxious” about her skin, suspected she had shingles again. “But it turned out I had fleas!” laughs the presenter, who had been filming a television report in a London squat. The presenter, who has now had the shingles vaccination, is working with pharmaceutical company GSK to raise awareness of shingles and the expanded NHS Shingles National Immunisation Programme.

“I want to encourage people to find out if they can get vaccinated,” says Janet. “There is a lack of information about shingles, and a reluctance to have yet another jab. People think you can catch it from other people and that’s completely wrong – it’s dormant in your body after you’ve had chickenpox and can reactivate when your immune system is low.”

Janet believes it’s especially important that older women look after their health. “We were talking about this on Loose Women recently – women in their 60s and 70s are working harder than ever, looking after grandchildren and in full or part-time work. We’re using our bodies more, placing them under more stress. Consequently, our health is even more important.

“Both times I got shingles I was working really hard. It’s especially the case with working women, if there’s something slightly wrong with your body, you tend to put it on one side and say, ‘I’m too busy to deal with that’. But if you leave it to progress to the next stage, it’s too late.” Not that she entirely learned her lesson about slowing down.

After surgery in 2020 to remove a basal cell carcinoma, Janet took herself straight back to the studio. “I went on Loose Women ­immediately with the stitches all down my nose to show people – you can’t even see it now.” Still working hard in her mid-70s, Janet is finally prioritising her health and, perhaps surprisingly for someone who has built a career on being opinionated, says silence has become increasingly important to her.

“I was in the Loose Women WhatsApp group for two hours and left because I couldn’t cope with the chat,” she reveals. After she was added to a new group for the Loose Women Live tour this summer, Janet swiftly bailed on that too. “You might find it entertaining but actually, I like silence. I like walking by myself. I read every day. I still lead basically the same sort of life, but I’ve built more silence into it.”

A fan of playing computer Scrabble to stay mentally agile, Janet found herself becoming more addicted than she was comfortable with. “I’ve had to cut it down because it was getting totally obsessive,” she says. “I was playing six times a day.” As for her physical health, the presenter is determined to stay agile with the passing years. “As you get older, you don’t want to become a shuffler,” she says. “I see some of my friends are shuffling – every time they get up from the chair, they make the ‘uh!’ noise.

Janet Street-Porter
Janet was told to rest, but she couldn’t stop working 
Image:
Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

“Having shingles threw me because with other problems I’ve had, you can see a path to recovery. But you get shingles and you’re told to do nothing.” Unusually, Janet, who remembers having chickenpox as a child, went on to develop shingles again in 2012. “It was mild compared to the first time and it cleared up relatively quickly.”

There was also a false alarm between cases. Janet, by now “super anxious” about her skin, suspected she had shingles again. “But it turned out I had fleas!” laughs the presenter, who had been filming a television report in a London squat. The presenter, who has now had the shingles vaccination, is working with pharmaceutical company GSK to raise awareness of shingles and the expanded NHS Shingles National Immunisation Programme.

“I want to encourage people to find out if they can get vaccinated,” says Janet. “There is a lack of information about shingles, and a reluctance to have yet another jab. People think you can catch it from other people and that’s completely wrong – it’s dormant in your body after you’ve had chickenpox and can reactivate when your immune system is low.”

Janet believes it’s especially important that older women look after their health. “We were talking about this on Loose Women recently – women in their 60s and 70s are working harder than ever, looking after grandchildren and in full or part-time work. We’re using our bodies more, placing them under more stress. Consequently, our health is even more important.

“Both times I got shingles I was working really hard. It’s especially the case with working women, if there’s something slightly wrong with your body, you tend to put it on one side and say, ‘I’m too busy to deal with that’. But if you leave it to progress to the next stage, it’s too late.” Not that she entirely learned her lesson about slowing down.

After surgery in 2020 to remove a basal cell carcinoma, Janet took herself straight back to the studio. “I went on Loose Women ­immediately with the stitches all down my nose to show people – you can’t even see it now.” Still working hard in her mid-70s, Janet is finally prioritising her health and, perhaps surprisingly for someone who has built a career on being opinionated, says silence has become increasingly important to her.

“I was in the Loose Women WhatsApp group for two hours and left because I couldn’t cope with the chat,” she reveals. After she was added to a new group for the Loose Women Live tour this summer, Janet swiftly bailed on that too. “You might find it entertaining but actually, I like silence. I like walking by myself. I read every day. I still lead basically the same sort of life, but I’ve built more silence into it.”

A fan of playing computer Scrabble to stay mentally agile, Janet found herself becoming more addicted than she was comfortable with. “I’ve had to cut it down because it was getting totally obsessive,” she says. “I was playing six times a day.” As for her physical health, the presenter is determined to stay agile with the passing years. “As you get older, you don’t want to become a shuffler,” she says. “I see some of my friends are shuffling – every time they get up from the chair, they make the ‘uh!’ noise.

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