Home Remedies for Shingles

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What causes shingles?

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful skin condition that results from a reactivation of an infection with the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that is responsible for chickenpox. The virus is never fully cleared from the body after a bout with chickenpox, and it can reactivate to cause the nerve and skin inflammation characteristic of shingles often decades after the chickenpox.

What are medications for shingles?

Antiviral medications like acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex), or famciclovir (Famvir) can reduce the severity and duration of the rash if started within 72 hours of the development of the skin rash, and pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve), and even narcotic pain-control medications may be useful in symptom control. In addition to medications, many people find that home care remedies can also provide relief for the pain of shingles.

What are common home remedies for shingles?

Keeping the inflamed skin clean is essential, so wash the affected area with cool water and mild soap. Taking a bath or shower is fine. The blisters of shingles will crust over and fall off on their own, and it's important to avoid picking at the blisters to prevent the development of a secondary skin infection at the inflamed site. Cool compresses applied to the painful area after washing may be helpful. In the first few days of an attack, you can apply ice packs for 10 minutes at a time several times throughout the day.

You can also use cornstarch or baking soda applied directly to the areas of blistering to keep them dry and promote faster healing. Another product that may help keep the blisters dry and prevent oozing is aluminum acetate solution (Burow's or Domeboro solution), which is available at pharmacies. Keep the blisters exposed to air and uncovered by clothing as much as possible.

Anti-itching lotions such as Calamine lotion can be applied after washing or rinsing or after treatment with cool compresses.

While none of these home treatments will cure shingles or even decrease the length of the attack, many sufferers find that home care measures can make the painful condition more tolerable.

REFERENCE:

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Shingles (Herpes Zoster)." Jan. 19, 2018. <http://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/overview.html>.

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Reviewed on 2/16/2018 12:00:00 AM