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Shingles Self-Care: What You Need to Know

Shingles is a painful skin condition caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you have had chickenpox in the past, the virus can stay dormant in your nerve cells and reactivate later in life, causing shingles. Shingles usually affects one side of the body and causes a rash with blisters that can last for several weeks. In this blog post, we will discuss some tips and tricks for managing shingles and preventing complications.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

The first sign of shingles is usually a tingling, burning, or itching sensation on a specific area of your skin. This may be followed by a fever, headache, fatigue, or nausea. Within a few days, a red rash with fluid-filled blisters will appear on the affected area. The rash can be very itchy and painful, and may spread to other parts of the body. The blisters will eventually dry up and form scabs, which will fall off after 2 to 4 weeks.

How is shingles diagnosed and treated?

If you suspect that you have shingles, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will examine your rash and ask about your medical history. In some cases, they may take a sample of the fluid from the blisters to confirm the diagnosis. The treatment for shingles usually involves antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir, which can reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms. You may also need painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, or topical creams to ease the discomfort. In addition, your doctor may recommend getting a shingles vaccine, which can lower your risk of getting shingles again or developing complications.

How can I care for my shingles rash at home?

While you are recovering from shingles, there are some self-care measures that you can take to promote healing and prevent infection. Here are some of them:

  • Keep the rash clean and dry. Wash the affected area gently with a mild soap and water, and pat it dry with a clean towel. Avoid rubbing or scratching the rash, as this can damage the skin and cause scarring.
  • Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or calamine lotion to the rash. This can help soothe the skin and prevent the scabs from cracking or bleeding. Do not use any other products that may irritate the skin, such as perfumes, cosmetics, or alcohol.
  • Cover the rash with a loose-fitting, non-stick bandage. This can protect the rash from dirt, bacteria, and clothing. Change the bandage daily or whenever it becomes wet or dirty.
  • Use a cool compress or an oatmeal bath to relieve the pain and itching. You can make a cool compress by wrapping a bag of ice or frozen vegetables in a towel, or soaking a cloth in cold water. Apply the compress to the rash for 10 to 15 minutes, several times a day. You can also add some oatmeal to your bath water and soak in it for 15 to 20 minutes, once or twice a day.
  • Get plenty of rest and eat a balanced diet. Your immune system needs to be strong to fight off the virus and heal the rash. Make sure you get enough sleep, drink plenty of fluids, and eat foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Avoid stress and exposure to sunlight. Stress can trigger or worsen shingles, so try to relax and do activities that make you happy. Sunlight can also aggravate the rash, so wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses when you go outside.

How can I prevent spreading shingles to others?

Shingles is contagious and can be passed on to anyone who has not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with the fluid from the blisters, or through airborne droplets from coughing or sneezing. To prevent spreading shingles to others, you should:

  • Avoid touching or picking at the rash. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially after touching the rash or applying medication.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are at risk of getting shingles, such as infants, pregnant women, elderly people, or people with weakened immune systems. If you have to be around them, cover the rash with clothing or a bandage, and wear a mask if possible.
  • Stay home from work, school, or social activities until the rash has scabbed over. This usually takes about 7 to 10 days after the rash appears.


Q: Can I get shingles more than once?

A: Yes, it is possible to get shingles more than once, although it is not very common. The risk of getting shingles again increases with age and with certain medical conditions that weaken the immune system.

Q: What are the complications of shingles?

A: Shingles can cause some serious complications, especially if it affects the eyes, ears, or face. Some of the possible complications are:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). This is a condition where the pain from shingles persists for months or years after the rash has healed. It can affect the quality of life and interfere with daily activities.
  • Eye problems. If shingles affects the eye or the area around it, it can cause inflammation, infection, or damage to the cornea, retina, or optic nerve. This can lead to vision loss or blindness.
  • Hearing problems. If shingles affects the ear or the area around it, it can cause inflammation, infection, or damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This can lead to hearing loss, tinnitus, or vertigo.
  • Brain inflammation (encephalitis). This is a rare but life-threatening complication where the virus spreads to the brain and causes swelling, bleeding, or damage to the brain tissue. This can lead to seizures, coma, or death.

Q: How can I prevent shingles?

A: The best way to prevent shingles is to get vaccinated against chickenpox and shingles. There are two vaccines available:

  • The chickenpox vaccine (varicella). This vaccine protects against the varicella-zoster virus, which causes both chickenpox and shingles. It is recommended for children aged 12 to 15 months, and a booster dose at 4 to 6 years. It can also be given to adults who have not had chickenpox or the vaccine before.
  • The shingles vaccine (Shingrix). This vaccine protects against shingles and its complications. It is recommended for adults aged 50 and older, regardless of whether they have had chickenpox or shingles before. It is given in two doses, 2 to 6 months apart.

You can talk to your doctor about getting these vaccines and whether they are right for you.


Shingles is a painful and potentially serious condition that can affect anyone who has had chickenpox in the past. However, with proper diagnosis, treatment, and self-care, you can manage the symptoms and speed up the recovery process. You can also prevent shingles or reduce its severity by getting vaccinated against chickenpox and shingles. If you have any questions or concerns about shingles, you should consult your doctor or a health care professional. Remember, shingles is not a life sentence, but a temporary challenge that you can overcome. 

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