Shingles is a skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus rears its ugly head years later causing severe itching and painful blisters. There is no cure for the virus, but there are several ways you can improve symptoms and shorten the duration of the disease.
Conventional treatments of shingles center mainly around the use of antiviral medications. In addition to medications, you can use natural remedies for treating shingles. Read on to find out how you can ease painful symptoms using natural remedies.
What Is Shingles
Singles is a skin condition caused by a viral infection known as the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). The virus is the same one behind the common childhood skin condition chickenpox and is commonly known as herpes zoster. The condition is characterized by an itchy, painful rash. Symptoms include redness and swelling at the rash site.
If you had chickenpox as a child, the virus may be neutralized but is not eliminated from your body. The virus can be reactivated years later resulting in shingles. Like chickenpox, the rash can appear anywhere on the body. However, it is most likely to only affect small areas rather than the entire skin. Most shingles rashes appear only on one side of the body.
The initial shingles symptoms include a rash and blisters that ooze fluid when ruptured. Additional symptoms include fatigue, decreased energy, high fever, and sensitivity to light or sound.
Shingles can last anywhere from two to six weeks and is not a curable disease. This means that most people who contract the virus will have to suffer through the symptoms. Some people may experience post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), where the shingles virus affects the nervous system. This can result in painful symptoms including nerve pain that last for months or even years after other shingles symptoms subside.
Conventional treatments include antiviral medications that can help shorten the duration of the symptoms. There are also natural remedies for shingles that can make the symptoms more bearable. Read on to find out how you can treat shingles naturally.
5 Natural Remedies for Shingles Symptoms
1. Soak In the Tub
Taking a long soak in a lukewarm bath can help to reduce shingles pain. Some people find a cool bath helps to ease symptoms better than a hot one. Avoid using hot water, which can aggravate your sensitive skin and itchiness by increasing blood flow.
You can also increase the soothing benefits of your warm bath by adding things like colloidal oatmeal or cornstarch. These ingredients offer soothing properties that can help reduce itching. Use one to two cups of oatmeal or cornstarch for a normal sized bathtub.
You can add a few drops of essential oils such as chamomile oil, which boast anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe irritated skin. Make sure to mix the essential oils with a carrier oil such as coconut oil before adding directly to the bathtub.
It’s also important to keep ruptured blisters clean to help prevent the spread of the virus and shingles outbreaks. Wash your bath towel and any washcloths immediately after each use to avoid spreading the virus.
2. Baking Soda
Both baking soda and cornstarch can be used to create a cream that helps to alleviate itching. Combine one cup of water and two cups of baking soda in a medium-sized bowl. Mix until blended well and apply the paste directly to your shingles rash. Leave the mixture on the skin for 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse. Repeat as needed and follow up with a moisturizing lotion.
3. Apply Calming Lotions
As with most rashes, soothing lotions are your best bet when it comes to calming itchiness and irritation. Scratching and rupturing blisters can cause scarring that lasts far longer than shingles symptoms. To avoid these side effects, apply a rich moisturizer each day. Use lotions that are dermatologist tested and free from irritants such as perfumes and drying agents. Calamine lotion is a great choice that won’t irritate the skin.
Be careful not to apply lotion too frequently. Shingles blisters need to dry out as part of the healing process. If you apply too much lotion, it can slow down the healing process. Use once or twice per day or just after a warm bath for best results.
4. Use A Cool Compress
Applying a cool compress directly to irritated skin can help to numb pain and offer quick relief. Avoid using ice packs or hot compresses as the extreme temperatures can worsen the pain.
Warm compresses may make symptoms worse for some individuals by increasing temperature and itchiness. Stick to cold compresses if you experience issues with warm compresses.
To make a cool compress, simply run a towel under cool water. Wring until just damp and apply directly to the skin. Repeat as needed throughout the day.
5. Eat Healthily
Having a healthy immune system makes it easier to fend off infections and feel better faster. Try to eat a well-rounded diet of healthy fats and plenty of vegetables. Exercise regularly and limit your intake of sugars that can wreak havoc on the body.
To boost immunity, look for foods that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Food with large amounts of vitamin C and vitamin D are particularly helpful. Things like berries, leafy greens, and avocados are all great choices.
6. Get Vaccinated
There are two shingles vaccines available in the United States according to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first is known as the zoster vaccine — Zostavax — and has been used since 2006. The second vaccine is known as recombinant zoster vaccine — Shingrix — and has been used since 2017. Today, Shingrix is the preferred vaccine, but Zostavax can still be used for people who are allergic to Shingrix or when Shingrix is not available (1).
The CDC recommends the shingles vaccine for people who are 50 years of age or older. Talk to your healthcare professional to find out more about the vaccine.
Shingles Home Remedy Recap
If you get shingles, using herbal remedies can offer pain relief. These natural treatments involve self-care such as eating right and exercising regularly as well as natural remedies such as soothing baths and calming lotions.
While these home remedies won’t cure shingles, they can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of shingles. They’ll also help to boost immune function to help shorten the duration of suffering caused by the shingles virus. For severe cases or if you develop post-herpetic neuralgia that affects nerve cells, seek medical advice for a qualified healthcare professional as they may need to prescribe antiviral drugs.