7 Simple Self-Care Tips for Shingles

You can’t make an outbreak of shingles go away any faster, but you can do a lot of things on your own to make yourself more comfortable.

Shingles is an infection caused by the same virus that gives you chickenpox. It shows up with a painful rash and usually lasts 2 to 4 weeks. With pain, burning, itching, and all-around discomfort, the symptoms can be tough to ride out.

Try these 7 simple self-care tips to treat your body and ease your mind:

Soothe the Rash

Your top priority is to find relief for the pain and itching that the rash causes. You might try:

1. Oatmeal baths: Dip into a cool tub of water. For extra relief, add colloidal oatmeal, which is made of oats that have been ground to a very fine powder. This soothing bath may help calm your itching.

2. Cold compresses: Run a washcloth under cool water and place it on your blisters for about 20 minutes at a time. Not only can this relieve itching, it also keeps your blisters clean. That helps you avoid a skin infection. A couple of important notes:

  • If your blisters aren’t oozing anymore, stop using cold compresses
  • If you are using any creams or patches on your rash, don’t use compresses at the same time

3. Loose clothing: You’ll likely find that relaxed fits made from natural fibers, such as cotton or linen, give you more comfort.

If you need to cover your blisters, avoid bandages that might stick to your rash.

4. Calamine lotion: Treat your skin with this smooth, cool, and soothing balm.

While calamine’s great, it’s best to avoid antibiotics that you rub on your skin. They can make the blisters take longer to heal.

Treat Your Body and Mind

You can get worn down mentally when you’re in constant pain. Stress can make it seem even worse. Self-care starts with treating your rash, but don’t stop there. Your mind and emotional state need to be cared for as well.

5. Stick with good habits: Your body’s working hard to fight the varicella-zoster virus that causes shingles. To give it the right support, you can:

  • Eat nutritious food and have regular meals. Ask someone to make a run to the grocery store for fresh fruit and such if you’re not up for it.
  • Try to get a good night’s sleep and rest anytime you need to.
  • Do gentle exercises, such as walking or stretching. Light activity can help take your mind off the pain. Keep it simple though, and check with your doctor if you’re trying something new.

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6. Distract yourself: Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to put your focus elsewhere. Here are a few things to try:

  • Call a friend
  • Listen to music that relaxes you
  • Read a book
  • Watch a favorite movie
  • Work on hobbies you enjoy

7. Keep calm: Relaxation can be a big help. With a calmer mind, you can better handle your discomfort. You may want to try:

Experiment with these as you live through your shingles outbreak. Different things can help depending on the severity of your symptoms and how you’re feeling from day to day.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 13, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Shingles.”

National Health Service (NHS): “Shingles.”

CDC: “Shingles (Herpes Zoster).”

PubMed: “Colloidal Oatmeal: history, chemistry, and clinical properties.”

NIH, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Shingles: Hope Through Research.”

NIH, National Institute on Aging, “Shingles.”

Mayo Clinic: “Stress Management.”

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