If you suspect you have got shingles, visit your doctor as soon as possible for a proper shingles treatment. The sooner you start the therapy, the better chance you have to avoid the postherpetic neuralgia as a complication.
Shingles (herpes zoster) is a viral nerve root infection caused by the varicella zoster virus. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox.
In most people that had chickenpox as children, the virus remains in the body after chickenpox has cleared. It can lie in the nerves quietly for decades, reactivate later in life and cause shingles. Statistically, this happens to 1 in 3 people in the US.
Shingles appears as a painful rash and blisters, usually on one side of a person’s body (around the ribs or on the side of the waist). It usually lasts 3 – 5 weeks. Some other symptoms that may appear include itching, numbness, tingling, fever, chills, nausea, headache, fatigue and sensitivity to light.
Shingles most often occurs in people over 50 years old, with weakened immune system, after a major trauma or in people that are under a lot of stress.
It is not life-threatening, but it can lead to postherpetic neuralgia, which means the person can keep experiencing severe pain for months, sometimes even years, after the rash is cleared.
There is no cure for shingles; after 3 – 5 weeks it usually retreats on its own. However, your doctor can prescribe you medications that can reduce the pain, soothe the rash and lessen the possibility of postherpetic neuralgia.
The first thing you’ll need for a successful shingles treatment are antiviral medications, to help your body fight the virus. They can also lessen the chance of developing complications, especially if you start taking them within the first 72 hours of having the first symptoms.
Shingles can cause a lot of pain, inflammation and discomfort. Ibuprofen or some other anti-inflammatory drugs can help relieve your symptoms. Antihistamines, such as Benadryl, can help with itching.
Your doctor might also suggest using some topical treatment, like a capsaicin cream or a numbing spray or lotion.
It has been proven that antidepressants can help ease almost any pain caused by nerve tissue damage, including postherpetic neuralgia. Tricyclic antidepressants are most commonly prescribed for these type of pain.
Antibiotics are usually not needed for treating shingles, unless a bacterial infection develops on the patch of your skin covered in rash.
How to Treat Shingles At Home
The following natural shingles treatments are a great way to relieve the symptoms and speed up the healing process. These steps shouldn’t and can’t replace the medications prescribed by your doctor. But they can help you ease the pain and itching.
The weakened immune system is one of the biggest causes of reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. A proper diet certainly helps prevent this condition. It can also do a lot to ease the symptoms and enhance the shingles treatment prescribed by your doctor.
Especially helpful can be: oranges and yellow fruits, tomato, berries, garlic, onion and green tea. You should also drink enough water every day.
Other than your immune system, you should also look for the food that can support the nervous system. Try to eat more food rich in vitamin B, such as bananas, sweet potatoes, beans, red meat, eggs, dark leafy vegetables and whole grains.
You should avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fried food.
Oatmeal bath is considered to be one of the most soothing natural treatments for irritated skin. In fact, colloidal oatmeal has such strong anti-inflammatory properties, the FDA approved it as a skin protectant.
Oatmeal is often used to treat severe skin conditions, like eczema and contact dermatitis. It contains saponins, which makes it a great natural cleanser. Oatmeal also reinforces the skin’s natural protective barrier and protects the skin from irritants, such as chemicals and pollution.
To make a shingles relieving oatmeal bath, first fill your tub with lukewarm water. Don’t use warm water, or it can increase blood flow, make the itching worse and slow down the healing process.
Add 3 – 5 cups of colloidal oatmeal. (If you don’t have it, you can use finely ground rolled oats instead.) Optionally, you can add lavender essential oil to your bath. However, in some cases, lavender oil can irritate the skin even further, so you should patch-test it first.
Mix everything well until the oatmeal dissolves and your bath water becomes milky white. Soak in it for 15 – 20 minutes.
Manuka and clover honey
Honey is another natural product that is used for treating a range of skin conditions. It still hasn’t been tested enough (there are only lab studies, not on humans), but both Manuka and clover honey shoved some promising results in dealing with the varicella zoster virus.
If you want to try it out, you can apply a small amount of either Manuka or clover honey directly to the rash. Leave it like that for 15 – 20 minutes, then gently wipe it off with clean tissues or a towel.
Applying cold compresses to the areas covered with the rash is a simple, yet effective shingles treatment. It can lessen the skin’s sensitivity, reduce inflammation and ease some of the pain and itching.
All you have to do is soak a clean towel or cotton cloth with cold water and squeeze out the excess water. Place the cloth against the area covered in rash.
Always use a clean cloth and change it after each session. That way, you’ll reduce the possibility of infection.
Easier said than done. However, it is proven that stress can prolong the symptoms of shingles. Stress weakens the immune system and negatively affects the overall condition of your body.
Try to get enough sleep, take some rest and avoid stressful activities. Don’t exhaust yourself, but try and see if short, easy walks on a fresh air might help you relax. Follow the dietary guidelines from the above, or even better – the ones your doctor gives you. Read a book or meditate.
Whatever works for you and keeps you relaxed.