I never planned on writing a post about home remedies for shingles! But after finding out I got shingles a few weeks ago, I thought I would share my experience and what I found to help me. Especially since shingles is so common, I hope you find some of these home remedies helpful!
What Happened to Me:
A few weeks ago I noticed a rash under my arm that spread to my arm and back. First, I thought it was just hives, except there was one odd thing about it, it didn’t itch at all, it was burning….Just like it was on fire, ouch! It really hurt!
It was extremely painful and the only way I could think of to describe it is… how it feels when you burn your finger on the oven. It seemed so strange because my rash didn’t even look that bad, how could such a small rash be so painful?!
So I went to a “Walkin” medical center and found out that because the rash appeared in the T1 zone of my body and based on my description of the pain and burning feeling, I was told I had shingles and it should go away in 2 weeks.
Having shingles never even crossed my mind! I had chicken pox as a kid. I’ve never had shingles before and no one I know has ever had it either, so it came as quite a surprise.
The only thing I knew about shingles was what I remember from seeing commercials on TV. They always showed older men in their 50’s or 60’s talking about how shingles is an extremely painful rash. So it seemed so odd that me, being in my late 20’s, that I would suddenly get shingles.
But, after much research I found out that people of any age get shingles and that some say it is becoming more common in younger people, like myself. It occurs because the virus lays dormant in everyone that has had chicken pox or the vaccine. Most statistics say that 1 out of 3 people will get shingles at some time in their life and usually you will only get it once in your life and not again. There are many various causes that can trigger the virus to become activated in your body and result in shingles.
What Causes Shingles:
There are many different reasons that the same virus that causes chicken pox and lays dormant in your nervous system can become reactivated and produce shingles. Here are some of the most common causes:
- Certain medications
- Lowered immune system
- High stress
- Recent injury or surgery
Stages of Shingles:
Before the rash, some get a tingling feeling or pain where the rash is going to appear in the next few days.
First Stage: A rash begins to appear on your skin. It can be a band or strip, or a larger area of red splotches that look similar to hives. My rash just started as few red splotches under my arm then over the next 2 days, more appeared going down my arm, and then a day later I saw a few clusters of red splotches on my upper back.
The rash typically only appears on half of your body. For me, it was under my left arm, going down my arm, and my upper back (only on the left side stopping at my spine).
*After the rash appeared, it was very painful for me, it felt like a bad burn.
Second Stage: About 3 to 5 days after you first see red splotches, the red bumps begin to fill with clear looking fluid (Mine were very small, but it’s still pretty gross!).
*The pain remained about the same during this stage.
Third Stage: About 4 to 6 days after the bumps become fluid filled, they begin to scab over.
*As soon as a few of mine no longer looked fluid filled, the pain and burning sensation improved significantly each day.
Fourth Stage: A few days to up to a week after the scabs form they will fall off and may leave your skin slightly pink for a little while.
*At this point, my pain was very minimal.
Fifth Stage: Some may have lingering pain where the rash was, even though the rash is now cleared, this is called postherapetic neuralgia. On average, studies say that the pain goes away for most within 30 days. However, occasionally, it can last longer than this.
The length of each stage can vary depending on the person, but these were the averages I found online and also what happened for me.
Conventional Treatment for Shingles:
Many people receive a prescription for an antiviral medication and this is said to be most effective when it is taken as quickly after the rash appears (within a few days of it appearing). The medication is supposed to prevent the rash from becoming more severe and also to help prevent postherpetic neuralgia, which is when the pain continues even after the rash is gone. Generally, most people also receive a prescription for something to help with the pain.
I was really tempted to take something for the pain but decided not to. The only reason I was able to get through it without taking pain medication was because these home remedies really helped soothe the rash and ease the pain.
5 Home Remedies for Shingles:
*Note: The main priority is to help dry out your fluid filled rash topically so that it turns into scabs and heals faster (this is what remedies 2 through 4 do)
1. Apply cool/cold compresses to the rash– This gave me instant relief from the pain and burning sensation.
2. Aloe vera– I used both aloe vera straight from the plant and this prepared kind applying it topically to the rash. It is soothing and also helps to dry out the fluid filled blisters of the rash.
3. Mixture of apple cider vinegar and water– Take about 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Mix them in a bowl. Dip a cotton ball in the mixture and apply it to your rash. The coolness of the mixture helps give relief and it also helps dry out the rash.
4. Calamine lotion – OK, so it’s not that natural, but without this I think I would of ended up taking pain medication because it helped give me so much relief!
I took a cotton ball and applied this calamine lotion to my rash about 3 to 4 times a day. It is extremely soothing as it goes on cool when applied. I felt like applying it every hour because it helped minimize my pain so much. It is also very drying so it will help dry up the fluid filled bumps faster.
5. Boost your immune system– Many get shingles because their immune system is weakened. So taking supplements to increase your immune system, especially while your body is fighting the virus is important so that you can minimize the severity and get over it more quickly . Here’s how to do it:
- Take a good real food based multivitamin – I take this one
- Take 500MG to 1,500MG of vitamin C – I take this real food based kind
- Take a multi-strain probiotic
- Make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, but preferably more, and reduce stress
My Experience with Shingles and How These Home Remedies Worked for Me:
My picture above was taken about 2 weeks after I got shingles, most of rash bumps had turned into scabs at that point.
It’s now been about 3 weeks since I first got the shingles. My rash is almost completely gone. I only have one or two scabs left. I have very minimal pain in my arm and back exactly where the rash was, which seems to be getting better as more time passes. Hopefully, it goes away completely soon. At this point, I’m not applying anything to my skin. I just continue to take the supplements to boost my immune system so that it will help speed up getting better.
I never could imagine that such a mild looking rash could be so painful. Even when I showed my rash to my family members they said it doesn’t look that bad, how could it be that painful?! But, those commercials that portray shingles as being painful are right! At it’s worst, even just the breeze of the wind or my shirt lightly touching the rash would cause terrible pain, like it was on fire. I’m glad I’m just about all better!
These home remedies for shingles really helped give me relief when I was going through the worst part of it and I hope they help you.
If you’ve had shingles and have any other suggestions or home remedies that worked for you, I would love to hear about them in the comments.