Know The Bathing Dos And Donts
Using the right water temperature while bathing or showering can make a big difference in how your skin feels and heals. Ideally, you should bathe with cool or lukewarm water and avoid very hot water.
You can also apply a cool, wet compress to the rash and blisters. The AAD recommends you soak a clean washcloth in cold water and place the cloth on top of the affected area several times a day. Leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes.
You should avoid rubbing washcloths, sponges, or exfoliants on the area.
You can also add colloidal oatmeal or cornstarch to your baths to provide some much-needed itch relief. Just be sure to dry your skin gently after getting out of the bath. Then, follow up with a layer of calamine lotion to soothe your skin, or keep it dry and cover with a bandage if its still weeping.
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Can Other People Catch Shingles
This one is confusing! You can catch chickenpox from other people, but you cant catch shingles from other people. You only get shingles from a reactivation of your own chickenpox infection in the past.
So if you have shingles, and you come into contact with somebody else, they cannot catch your shingles. But if they have never had chickenpox, it is possible that they could catch chickenpox from you.
To put it another way, no, you dont catch shingles. It comes from a virus hiding out in your own body, not from someone else. But if you have shingles, you may be infectious, as it is possible for people to catch chickenpox from you.
Only people who have never had chickenpox are likely to be at risk of catching chickenpox from your shingles. People who have had chickenpox should be immune from catching it again. If the rash is in a covered area of skin, the risk of anyone with whom you are not in close contact catching chickenpox is very low.
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Skin Care And Itch Relief For Shingles
To relieve itching and discomfort, try:
- A cool, wet compresses on the affected skin
- Soothing baths and lotions, such as colloidal oatmeal bath, starch baths, or calamine lotion
- Zostrix, a cream that contains capsaicin
- Antihistamines to reduce itching
Keep your skin clean. Throw away bandages you use to cover your skin sores. Throw away or wash in hot water clothing that has contact with your skin sores. Wash your sheets and towels in hot water.
While your skin sores are still open and oozing, avoid all contact with anyone who has never had chickenpox, especially pregnant women.
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Should I See A Doctor For Shingles
It is usually worth seeing a doctor to be certain about the diagnosis and to see if you need treatment or not. Ideally you should see a doctor as soon as possible after the rash appears.
The rash of shingles can be very painful. So even if the doctor doesn’t think you need an anti-shingles medicine, they may be able to give you stronger painkillers than those you can buy over the counter from the chemist.
Prevent Shingles Or Another Shingles Outbreak:
- A vaccine may be given to help prevent shingles. You can get the vaccine even if you already had shingles. The vaccine comes in 2 forms. A 2-dose vaccine is usually given to adults 50 years or older. A 1-dose vaccine may be given to adults 60 years or older.
- The vaccine can help prevent a future outbreak. If you do get shingles again, the vaccine can keep it from becoming severe. Ask your healthcare provider about other vaccines you may need.
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Steroid Medication For Shingles
Steroids help to reduce swelling . A short course of steroid tablets may be considered in addition to antiviral medication. This may help to reduce pain and speed healing of the rash. However, the use of steroids in shingles is controversial. Your doctor will advise you. Steroids do not prevent PHN.
Home Remedies And Lifestyle
In addition to triggering an uncomfortable rash, shingles can cause symptoms that are similar to those of other viral infections.
While prescription and over-the-counter drugs can help, one of the most important things you can do while dealing with the illness is to take good care of yourself. If you’re caring for someone else who has shingles, “creature comforts” can be enormously soothing.
Verywell / Laura Porter
Integrate these basic tactics into even the busiest daily routine:
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Lidocaine Cream And Patches
PHN is a complication of shingles characterized by long-term nerve pain after your rash disappears. The CDC says that about 10 to 18 percent of people experience PHN after shingles.
Lidocaine is often administered in patches. The study linked above notes that up to 3 patches can be applied in a 12-hour window.
Other Treatments For Shingles
Medications for pain relief may be required. These may be either over the counter or prescription drugs, depending on the severity of the pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications may help some people, while others may require narcotic pain medications. Nonmedical treatments for shingles and home remedies include the use of cool compresses to relieve pain and anti-itching lotions like calamine lotion. Aluminum acetate solutions can help dry up the blisters. Additionally, different medications have been used to control the pain of postherpetic neuralgia, including tricyclic antidepressantsand antiseizure medications. Topical agents that can help relieve the pain of postherpetic neuralgia include capsaicin cream and lidocaine patches.
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What To Do If You Think You Have Shingles
If you suspect that you have shingles, its important to visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible. According to the American Academy of Dermatology , treating shingles within the first 72 hours gives you the best chance of minimizing complications like nerve pain.
Antiviral medications or other medications only available by prescription can shorten the duration of your shingles or lessen the severity.
If a cream or other topical isnt reducing your pain, its a good idea to visit your doctor again. They may recommend trying another treatment like capsaicin cream instead of lidocaine.
If a product is making your symptoms worse, its important to stop taking it right away.
You may be able to reduce your symptoms using home remedies while youre waiting to see a healthcare professional. These include applying a wet cold compress or taking a cool bath.
Antiviral Medications For Shingles
Antiviral medications are prescription drugs that can reduce the length and severity of your outbreak if they are given early enough. Examples of these drugs include acyclovir , valacyclovir , and famciclovir . It has been shown that antiviral medications can help prevent the development of postherpetic neuralgia and reduce its duration if it does occur.
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Eutectic Mixture Of Local Anesthetics Cream
EMLA cream is a prescription medication made up of a 1-to-1 ratio of 2.5 percent lidocaine and 2.5 percent prilocaine.
A 2018 case study of one person found that EMLA cream may make an effective alternative to lidocaine cream for treating PHN in people with special situations like kidney failure. However, theres not much available research about its effectiveness. Most existing research is from the 1980s and 90s.
A doctor can give you specific instructions on how to use EMLA cream.
You Can Prevent Shingles
The good news is that you can avoid this misery entirely by getting a fairly new vaccine thats proving to be highly effective. There has actually been a shingles vaccine since 2006, but the first incarnation, Zostavax, only prevented shingles in about 50% of people. Plus, Zostavax was made from live viruses so people with compromised immune systems couldnt get it even though they are the ones most at risk for shingles.
The new vaccine, Shingrix, available since 2017, does not use live viruses in its formulation so its safer and has been found to be more than 90% effective. Shingrix is whats known as an adjuvanted vaccine, meaning it has extra ingredients that help create a stronger immune response. A booster shot may be needed eventually, but experts currently estimate the vaccine provides protection for at least seven years. Its available for adults age 50 and up and requires two doses given between two and six months apart.
On the slim chance you do get shingles after being vaccinated, the illness will be much milder and you will be less likely to develop PHN.
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What Causes Shingles
Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After youve had chickenpox, the virus goes dormant in your body. It stays inside certain nerve cells. Your immune system keeps the virus in these cells. As you get older, your immune system may get weaker. If this happens, the virus may reactivate, causing shingles. Many times this happens years after youve had chickenpox. If you have had the chickenpox vaccine, you are less likely to get chickenpox. Therefore, youre less likely to later develop shingles.
Most people who get shingles are over 50 years of age or have a weak immune system. For example, you might get shingles if you:
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How To Use Valtrex
This medication works best when started at the first sign of an outbreak, as directed by your doctor. It may not work as well if you delay treatment. For shingles or chickenpox, start taking valacyclovir at the first symptom or as soon as possible after the rash appears. For cold sores or genital herpes, start taking this medication at the first sign or as soon as you feel tingling, itching, or burning.
Valacyclovir works best when the amount of medicine in your body is kept at a constant level. Take this drug at evenly spaced intervals. To help you remember, take it at the same time each day.
Continue to take this medication until the full prescribed amount is finished. Do not change your dose, skip any doses, or stop this medication early without your doctorâs approval.
Tell your doctor if your condition persists or worsens.
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What Not To Do
As your shingles blisters start to scab, be sure not to:
- Touch or scratch your scabs. This can break the scabs and cause scarring. You might also introduce harmful bacteria into your skin that can cause an infection.
- Use thick ointments. Thick ointments will keep the scabs moist, which may increase the risk of infection. Try to keep your scabs dry instead.
- Wrap your scabs. Avoid bandages or dressings, which can stick to your scabs. Its best to keep them uncovered and dry.
- Wear tight clothes. Tight, restrictive clothing will rub against the scabs and further irritate your skin.
Even as your blisters start to scab, you might still develop new ones for about a week. Thats why its essential to keep protecting your skin as it heals.
Is There A Shingles Vaccination
In the UK there is a shingles vaccine immunisation programme for people aged 70 years to protect against herpes zoster. There is also a catch-up programme which offers the vaccine to anyone aged between 70 and 79 years who has previously missed out on immunisation. The vaccine is licensed for people aged over 50 years, and if you are not eligible for the vaccine on the NHS, your pharmacist may be able to provide the vaccine as a private service.
The chickenpox vaccine is not routinely given to children in the UK but is offered to people who are in close contact with someone who is particularly vulnerable to chickenpox or its complications eg, people with a weakened immune system.
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Can I Prevent Shingles
Who should get it: The CDC recommends that you get this vaccine if youâre a healthy adult age 50 or older, whether or not you remember having had chickenpox, because most people have been exposed to the virus. If you have had the Zostavax vaccine, you can also have Shingrix.
How many shots do you need? You would need two shots for Shingrix: One at first, with a follow-up in 2 to 6 months.
What it does:Shingrix reduces your chance of getting shingles by more than 90%. Even if you still get shingles, the vaccine may help it be less painful.
I never had chickenpox. Do I still need the shingles vaccine? Yes, you do. Shingrix is recommended for everyone age 50 or older, whether or not you remember having had chickenpox.
If Iâve had shingles, can I still get the vaccine? Yes. It may help prevent you having another bout of shingles later on. If you have shingles right now, you should wait until the rash is gone before you get vaccinated.
Donât get the Shingrix vaccine if you:
- Are allergic to any of the ingredients
- Are pregnant or nursing
- Have tested negative for immunity to the chickenpox virus. Ask your doctor about the chickenpox vaccine instead.
- Have shingles now
Are There Alternative Treatments
Some studies show that various alternative treatments, from acupuncture to supplements, can offer relief. The research isnât complete, but some shows promise. Check with your doctor before you try any of these:
TENS . This therapy uses tiny electrical pulses to relieve pain. A TENS unit is about the size of a smartphone and comes with small patches called electrodes. You put them over the painful area and turn the unit on and off as your pain comes and goes.
Traditional Chinese medicine: These treatments aim to restore balance in your body. They include acupuncture, the ancient practice of inserting very thin needles into your skin at specific points. Also, moxibustion and cupping, two types of heat therapy, are supposed to draw out toxins. These treatments may be done in combination.
Creams and other skin treatments: A mixture of liquid dimethyl sulfoxide and idoxuridine, an antiviral drug, may reduce swelling and the number of blisters you have when you put it on your rash. And chlorophyll, the chemical that gives plants their green color, is also used directly on the rash as a cream or saline solution.
Supplements: Youâll find a long list of herbs, pills, and oils that claim to relieve shingles. Most have no research to back them up, but there are a couple of exceptions. Papain, a protein found in papayas, is sold in capsules. And manuka and clover honeys can be put directly on your skin. Very early studies on both show they may be helpful.
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How Is Shingles Diagnosed
So lets say you read all that and you still havent gotten the shingles vaccine. And lets say you wake up one morning feeling weird pain in parts of your back, and then before you know it, you see a rash forming. How will your doctor know if its shingles?
You neednt worry about undergoing a lot of poking and proddingtests are seldom needed to diagnose this illness. Most doctors can do it by sight since there are some . You can also do a preliminary telehealth appointment if you do not want to visit your healthcare provider during the continuing COVID-19 crisis.
One reason its easy to recognize is that shingles is aptly named: The wide stripe-shaped rash that occurs literally resembles a shingle on a house. Another red flag is the location. Shingles will only develop on one side of the bodymost likely the torsoin the same area as the nerve thats playing host to the virus. Heres how that works:
The patch of skin where the rash appears is known as a dermatomean area that is supplied by a single spinal nerve whose job is to send sensations like pain or itching to the brain.
The body has 31 such spinal nerves between the neck and the tailbone, each of which originates at one side of the spine and runs horizontally around your torso to the front of the body, where it stops.
These spinal nerves never cross the midsection of your body, so neither does the rash.
Avoid Scratching The Blisters
It might be tempting to scratch or pick at the blisters, especially if theyre causing you discomfort. Know that theyll eventually crust over and fall off if you leave them alone.
Scratching at blisters or scabs can lead to infection and scarring. Cleaning and covering them regularly with a new sterile bandage can help reduce the likelihood that youll pick at the rash.
Keeping the rash clean is one part of the process. The other is to make sure you bandage it properly, especially if the rash is still weeping .
When dealing with a painful shingles rash, your best bet is to use bandages that are:
When youre switching the dressing, allow the skin to dry before covering it with a new bandage.
In addition to keeping the rash protected, bandaging also prevents you from passing the varicella-zoster virus to another person. Be sure to keep bandages on any areas of the rash that havent scabbed over yet.
While shingles isnt contagious, the virus that causes it can be passed to anyone who hasnt had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. If they come into skin-to-skin contact with the fluid that oozes from a shingles blister, they could end up with chickenpox, according to
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