The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are up to one million cases of shingles in the United States every year. About one in three people in the United States will develop shingles at some point in their lifetime. Shingles refers to the reactivation of the dormant herpes varicella zoster virus (chickenpox) after childhood. Various illnesses, aging, trauma, and stress can all activate the virus.
If you had chickenpox as a child, the shingles virus remains dormant in the body. It can reactivate later in life in the form of the shingles rash, which can occur on any part of the body, but it typically affects small sections. When the virus begins, you may notice pain and itching in the skin before the signature rash appears one or two days later. Typically, small, water-filled blisters accompany the rash. Those blisters eventually rupture, scar, and fade over a few weeks. That process, however, can be very uncomfortable and painful. Other potential symptoms of shingles can include:
- Abdominal pain
If you think you have shingles, it’s best to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible, especially if it’s on your face or near the eyes. While there isn’t a cure for shingles, doctors often prescribe antiviral medication to help accelerate recovery and reduce the duration of symptoms. Although an antiviral treatment is very effective, the following home remedies may be able to reduce pain and discomfort.
Oatmeal Or Baking Soda Baths
The best way to help reduce the pain and severity of shingles is to care for your skin safely as it heals. Soaking in an oatmeal or baking soda bath can soothe the skin if you have a shingles rash. These popular home remedies can help relieve itching, according to doctors. Look for colloidal (or ground) oatmeal or baking soda and add either of those ingredients to cool bath water. Both ingredients work to calm itching and are gentle on the skin. Grinding oat grain into a fine powder makes up colloidal oatmeal, which soothes the skin because it contains beneficial proteins, fats, minerals, and other nutrients.
Applying a cool cloth or compress against the site of the rash may relieve itchiness and reduce inflammation. Lightly soak a natural cotton cloth or towel in cool water and wring it out before you put it on the sore area. Repeat this process as necessary. One thing to remember is that you do not want to expose the skin to extreme temperatures. Avoid the use of ice baths or very hot water. Hot water can increase blood flow and slow down the healing of sores, whereas ice increases skin sensitivity.
Calamine lotion is an over-the-counter, topical, pink lotion that is commonly used to treat mild itchiness, pain, and discomfort. This is a very important note: do not apply calamine lotion to active blisters. The reason for this is because you do not want to cause infection. Only apply calamine lotion once the skin forms scabs over the blisters. That may help soothe the discomfort you feel and reduce the urge to itch your skin, according to dermatologists.
Modify Your Diet
A healthy diet is integral for helping the body’s systems and organs function optimally. It is best to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains in your diet to vary your nutritional intake. People with shingles should aim to eat more orange, red, and green foods because they contain carotenoids. This group of antioxidants includes zeaxanthin, lutein, lycopene, and provitamin A, all of which work to enhance immune function. Try to eat more carrots, squash, pumpkin, watermelon, red bell pepper, grapefruit, tomatoes, kale, parsley, spinach, melon, lettuce, and other leafy greens.
Covering the rash with a thin layer of Vaseline and then a large cotton bandage protects the skin from clothing and other irritants. Speaking of clothing, stick to loose, cotton clothes, especially when you’re on the mend, as that material eases the discomfort. By protecting your rash with Vaseline and a cotton bandage, you help keep others safe. Shingles is very contagious only while rash blisters appear. When using Vaseline, try to use a plain, unscented variety to avoid irritation.