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What are Some Home Remedies for Shingles?

Amy Pollick
Updated Feb 05, 2024
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Many people have experienced the misery caused by shingles. There are some remedies for the pain they cause, but not for shingles itself.

It may be helpful to first understand what shingles actually is. Essentially, it’s chicken pox come back with a vengeance. The varicella virus never actually goes away once a person has had chicken pox. Instead, it goes dormant deep in the spinal column. Something may happen to the body, such as extreme stress, or immune system suppression and suddenly, a person wakes up one morning with a fever, extreme soreness on one side of the body, and possibly, painful red sores.

The varicella virus has been resurrected and is traveling along the root nerves in the body as shingles, inflaming them and causing intense pain. Many have likened this pain to being burned with a cigarette, or having a cigarette lighter held against their skin.

Because it is caused by a dormant virus, home remedies are not usually of much help for the virus itself. Instead, they focus on alleviating the symptoms and keeping the sufferer comfortable. When treated within 24 hours of symptom onset, a person will usually have a much lighter case, and symptoms will be more manageable. Doctors can give an antiviral injection that will help, and can also prescribe lidocaine patches, but these are expensive.

One good home remedy is oatmeal baths or the use of oatmeal soap. This can help soothe the burning sores. Another over-the-counter remedy is calamine lotion or any kind of lotion designed to deal with burns or insect bites. Putting the lotion in the refrigerator first will make the application a cooling relief. Ice can be used for very short periods — 3 to 4 minutes at a time. The same applies for a bag of frozen peas or corn. Aloe vera gel for sunburns may also help, if it has benzocaine or lidocaine in the mixture. It can go in the refrigerator as well. The nerves themselves are inflamed, so anything cooling is a relief.

While there are several home remedies available to help ease the pain of shingles, a person should always seek medical attention first, in order to lessen the severity of the outbreak. Anyone who has a suppressed immune system or is older should learn the symptoms of shingles and call a doctor immediately if he or she thinks an outbreak is on the horizon.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseGeek. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By anon311291 — On Dec 31, 2012

I felt really cold, even though weather was supposed to be mild and couldn't get heat into me despite having the heating on and blanket around me. I was cursing the BBC weather forecast, I actually thought that they had got it wrong and that it was much colder than the 12 degrees that they said it was.

I went to my bed at 7 p.m. to get warm, and lo and behold, the next day woke up with that old familiar unilateral pain on my back and front. I'm still waiting for the rash to appear. The joy of Zoster Herpes is like having sun burn that goes straight through you in the middle of winter.

By GardenTurtle — On Sep 12, 2010

@momothree: The stage before the rash appears is called the prodromal stage. In this stage, you may experience pain, burning, tickling, tingling, and numbness in the area around the affected nerves. This could happen several days or weeks before the rash will appear. It usually starts around the chest or back.

After that, the flu-like symptoms may start. You may have chills, stomach-ache or diarrhea days before the rash appears. You may also experience tenderness and swelling in your lymph nodes.

By cmsmith10 — On Sep 12, 2010

@momothree: The rash is usually more painful than it is itchy. The nerve roots that send sensation to your skin run in pathways on both sides of your body. When the virus is reactivated, it travels up the roots to the area of skin supplied by those specific roots. That is why the rash will affect one side or the other.

By googie98 — On Sep 12, 2010

@momothree: Some early symptoms of shingles include sensitivity to light, headache, and flu-like symptoms not associated with fever. You may also experience itching, tingling, pain, or a small rash. The rashes can appear anywhere on the body but will only be on one side, right or left. Blisters usually form from the rash and then scab over. After a few weeks, it usually clears up.

By momothree — On Sep 12, 2010

What are the symptoms of shingles?

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseGeek. With...
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