If You Have Been Diagnosed With Shingles

If you have Shingles, here are some things that might help.

There is no cure for Shingles. The Shingles rash usually lasts up to 30 days. Some treatments may help bring temporary relief of the pain and itch of the rash. Here are some ways to try to stay as comfortable as possible with Shingles; however, these treatments provide only partial relief and may not be effective for everyone.

  • Cool wet compresses may help reduce pain. Soothing baths and lotions, such as an oatmeal bath, starch bath, or calamine lotion, may help relieve itching and discomfort.

  • Bathing daily and keeping your fingernails clean and trim can help prevent bacterial infections and damage to the skin that scratching may cause.

  • Over-the-counter medications may provide some relief to patients suffering from the pain or itch that may occur during or after Shingles. Antihistamines can also be taken to help reduce itching.

Your health care professional may prescribe medication to help with the Shingles rash.

Situations to avoid if you have Shingles.

You cannot get Shingles from someone who has the disease. However, the virus that causes Shingles is the same virus that causes chickenpox. So, someone who has never had chickenpox could get chickenpox from a person with Shingles if he or she comes into direct contact with the Shingles rash when the blisters have not yet crusted. It's very important to stay away from newborns, people who have problems with their immune system, and people who haven't had chickenpox, especially if you have Shingles blisters that have not yet crusted. Your doctor can tell you about other situations you may need to avoid if you have Shingles.

Be aware of the possible complications of Shingles.

Shingles can sometimes lead to serious complications. About one in five people end up with postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN. This is long-term nerve pain that may develop after the Shingles rash heals, and it can last for months or even years. The pain may be sharp or throbbing, and may hurt beyond the area of the original rash.

Current treatment for PHN symptoms may have limited benefit. Your doctor may need to refer you to a pain specialist.

Get more important facts so you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your risk.