Let’s be clear, shingles can be an exceptionally painful illness. It can strike almost any adult at some point in their life. Those who have had it often say it was an extremely sore and distressing illness. In some cases, people can have bouts of shingles that last weeks, leading to loss of income, a lot of pain, extreme discomfort, and even some long term effects on their bodies.
Ideally, you want to limit as far as possible the dose of shingles you might be suffering from. Hopefully this article will help.
In purely medical terms, shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. It is, as we say, a serious medical condition.
Skin itching and sensitivity, typically with a feeling of burning or tingling
This is a very immediate and common symptom of the disease.
As with other skin symptoms of this type, apply a cool compress to the area concerned.
This will immediately help reduce the burning sensation and will address the inflammation in the skin. The cooling effect will likely be of immense relief to you.
Taking regular baths also helps, but only with lukewarm water. Avoid waters that are cold or hot. The body does not like extremes of heat when it is fighting off disease or illness.
Some natural creams and ointments may help, but be careful to keep those as simple as possible if they are relatively conventional moisturizers. Avoid those with astringent ingredients or properties.
You will very likely also need to be taking antiviral medication. Make sure to take these as prescribed, as they will help to reduce the sensitivity of the skin, as well as fight the core infection.
Small, fluid-filled blisters
Small blisters will typically appear on your body, most commonly on its sides. They tend to appear in a band-like pattern, like a small chain. Again, typically, they are very itchy and painful. They will almost certainly be characterized by a burning or tingling sensation and may be extremely uncomfortable, as well as emotionally distressing.
They may initially appear as little red spots, but will likely develop into small blisters filled with clear liquid. These blisters will not normally last and can be treated, but it is extremely important to respect their presence and take due medical aid.
Fever is one of the most common symptoms of shingles. Many sufferers find their temperature rises notably above the normal range of around 98.6°F (37°C).
As with other fevers, though it may not feel like it, a fever is actually the body fighting back against infection, expelling the illness and trying to do so as fast as possible.
If you are suffering from a headache or inflammation as part of the fever, be sure to take appropriate medication, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. Make sure never to exceed the safe dose, however, as this can lead to complications.
If your fever is extremely notable, please see other articles on the site that are related to fevers. How To Cure A Fever offers excellent advice.
A significant headache is a common symptom of shingles.
Headaches themselves are often due to inflamed nerve fibers. In cases of shingles they are caused by the infection. A shingles headache can be exceptionally painful, so you will likely need to take an anti-inflammatory drug to assist in treating the pain. Ibuprofen or naproxen are two of the best known NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
If these are not suitable for you, then you may find it wise to take some other form of prescription drug, such as a form of corticosteroid. They can also be used to treat inflammatory conditions and significant headaches.
In addition, and more simply, applying cool or very lightly warm compresses to the forehead can also help to reduce inflammation and provide relief. Do not underestimate the efficacy of these simple methods. They can genuinely help.
Fatigue is a symptom of many illnesses, but with shingles you will likely feel extremely tired.
To restore your energy as you fight the infection, it is absolutely essential to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. Sleep and ingesting the right liquids are two central elements of any quick recovery.
You also need to ensure that you feed yourself nutritiously. The body needs good food that is high in vitamins and minerals, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. These will assist your fight against the illness.
For some sufferers, focusing on relaxation techniques such as yoga or deep breathing can also assist. The lowering of the stress in the body enables more of the body’s energy to be used to fight illness.
This is an incredibly important section, as we need to know how to make as sure as we can that we do not again suffer from shingles.
A weakened immune system
The immune system is the core of our wellbeing. We need to have a strong immune system to fight illness and ward off shingles. A weak immune system leaves you open to catching infections and a run down body is almost certain to pick up an illness, often a serious one like shingles.
To ensure a strong immune system, a good diet is essential.
Your diet needs to be rich on the following:
- Fresh fruit
- Fresh or frozen vegetables
- Plenty of water
- Liquids that are filled with vitamins, such as fruit and vegetable juices
- Lean meats, if you are a carnivore
- Good quality fresh or frozen fish
- Vitamins, including supplements, if you feel them helpful
Vitamin C and Zinc and Selenium are three notable vitamins and minerals to ensure you ingest sufficiently.
Previously having chickenpox
If you had chickenpox earlier in life, then the bad news is that you are more susceptible to catching shingles later in life. Unfortunately, the virus that causes chickenpox, known as varicella-zoster virus (VZV), can remain dormant in your body for many years and can flare up again if the body is weak or if it is triggered by another form of infection.
If you are in this category, be especially aware of how to treat shingles, should they arrive.
A shingles rash may initially appear as a red patch, often with small bumps or blisters. It can appear anywhere, but is usually found on the body, typically, though not exclusively, along the sides.
Blood tests can be taken to determine whether the symptoms you have are in fact due to the shingles virus.
Blood tests are simple and will involve nothing more invasive than a small prick to the finger to enable a drop of blood to be analyzed. If you are fearful that you may be developing shingles, it can be useful to get a blood test to know how to prepare yourself and how best to treat the shingles at an early stage.
This is a rare way of determining shingles, as it is invasive. You are not likely to have to need a skin biopsy to determine whether you have shingles or not, but in some very particular circumstances it may be recommended. Obviously, a treatment like this is only ever done under the strictest medical advice.
Antiviral medications work by interfering with the virus’s replication process, preventing it from multiplying and spreading throughout the body. They are usually used to reduce the severity or duration of an illness, and they can certainly be helpful.
That said, they only work at the very early stages of an illness and will be of much less use once your shingles is advancing.
Over-the-counter (OTC) options like ibuprofen and acetaminophen typically relieve mild to moderate pain. However, if you’re in more severe pain, your healthcare provider may recommend stronger prescription medications.
These can include anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and topical medications suited to treating the skin conditions caused by shingles.
We should be clear that shingles can be extremely painful, so investigating these options early on can be of very significant importance, as there is a strong chance you will need some medical assistance to ensure you expedite your recovery.
We may associate this type of medication with hayfever and summertime allergies, but they can also provide relief from the pain associated with shingles. They work to reduce swelling and inflammation on the skin, and this is of particular help with the blistering we experience with shingles.
By themselves, however, they will not eliminate shingles in three days, so you will need to use them in combination with other medicines and approaches.
Corticosteroids are strong drugs. They are powerful anti-inflammatories that help to reduce the pain, itching, and rash caused by shingles. They are typically taken by mouth, but in some cases may be injected into the affected area. They will only ever be available to you in those circumstances by a medical professional.
Ointment or Creams
Topical treatments are also an important part of your armory in fighting off shingles fast. They usually contain antiviral ingredients and they work by being applied directly onto the rash.
Your health service or pharmacist will assist you in evaluating which is best. If you are in too much pain to visit the pharmacy in person, you will find online options that will offer excellent service.
Home Remedies for Fast Relief
This herb has been used for centuries to treat a variety of skin ailments. It has potent, but gentle, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties and its use in shingles treatment is widely acknowledged.
If you have an aloe plant, you can break open a leaf and squeeze out the gel inside it to apply directly to the affected area. More simply, there are many topical creams and ointments available in health stores, pharmacies, and even in most supermarkets.
It is always wise to have some in the medical cabinet at home.
By adding just a few handfuls of oatmeal to your bath, you will assist in limiting the effects of shingles. Oats contain antioxidants and calming agents and, once released into the waters, they help assist in addressing the skin’s inflammation.
Ensure the water is no more than lukewarm – though not chilly – and make sure you spend around twenty minutes bathing.
You can repeat these baths a few times a day with no harmful effects and you will likely feel better each time.
Honey is a natural miracle!
It has a centuries long history as a treatment for illnesses and as a preventative agent. It also possesses anti-inflammatory qualities and it is incredibly easy to ingest. Manuka honey is the most exceptional honey, but most honeys have health benefits and will help your body fight infection and any associated fevers that shingles has caused.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is another small scale miracle. It is a natural oil derived from the Melaleuca plant and is native to Australia. Like honey and aloe, its anti-inflammatory qualities are high. In addition, it is a natural antiseptic, and it also possesses antiviral properties. It is very helpful in the fight against shingles. Applying it to the skin will almost certainly reduce the temperature, pain and itchiness of the shingles blisters.
As ever, be gentle as you apply any topical treatments, as your blisters will be painful.
Keep the affected area clean and dry
Cleanliness is essential when you are ill. And you absolutely must keep clean the shingles affected areas, as sweaty hot areas may breed further infections that are even harder to get rid of and that add complications.
Ensure you very gently wash the affected areas at least twice a day. Use a gentle product with minimal scent. Also ensure you only ever pat yourself dry, or, even wiser, allow yourself to dry naturally if the temperature allows that.
You also need to change your bed linens very often when you are ill and in a form of shingles fever. Bed linens that have been sweated in, or in which infected skin has been lying, can be breeding grounds for bacteria, and when you have blisters on your skin you absolutely must ensure to be lying on clean sheets.
It can be a bore to do all this, but it is extremely important you do so.
Talk to a doctor about a vaccination
Vaccination is a rare option and will only ever be done in consultation with your doctor or health service. The reality is that it is not offered on any widespread level as shingles can be difficult to predict and most people go through their lives without contracting it. If, however, you are very worried about catching shingles, talk to medical professionals and evaluate the options together.
Practice good hygiene
Excellent hygiene is, as in so many other elements of our health, essential. ‘Hygiene always helps health’ is a useful mantra to follow in life.
Shower or wash daily, especially in areas prone to sweating and heat, as these are areas where bacteria thrive. Use mild soaps to ensure you do not irritate the skin, especially if you are suffering from shingles. Keep the temperature of the water moderate, and certainly not at all too hot.
Changing towels frequently is sometimes forgotten by people, but it is an essential element of good hygiene practice.
You must also do all you can to exercise self-discipline and avoid scratching or touching the rash. If you do, wash your hands thoroughly right away to prevent spreading the virus.
Avoid sharing towels and clothing
In line with the above advice, avoid sharing facecloths, towels or clothing. You may also wish to sleep alone, so that your partner is not disturbed. If your condition lasts longer than it needs to, you may find that one of the reasons is because you have not been attending to simple hygiene and prevention measures, so make sure to attend to core common sense behaviors.
Avoid touching the affected skin area
It can require great willpower, but you need to do all you can not to spread the rash across areas of your body that have remained unaffected by the core outbreak.
Avoid touching the affected areas as much as you possibly can, as that can spread the infection to otherwise clean and rash free areas of your skin. The severity and the duration of shingles is then increased, precisely the opposite of what you want.
Sometimes using a clean towel to cover the area helps you to avoid seeing the rash and therefore being tempted to scratch it.