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Natural Treatments For Shingles + Causes, Symptoms, And Prevention Tips

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Natural Treatments For Shingles + Causes, Symptoms, And Prevention Tips January 25, 2019

One in every three individuals in the US can develop shingles in their lifetime. And every year, there are about 1 million cases of the infection diagnosed in the country (1)!

Shingles is an infection that is the aftermath of chickenpox. So, all of you who have a history of chickenpox may be at an increased risk of developing shingles.

If you happen to notice angry, stubborn rashes or blisters that have surfaced around your torso, beware! They might be shingles. To know more about this infection and its treatment and prevention options, read on.

Table Of Contents

What Is Shingles?

Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is medically referred to as herpes zoster. This infection is the result of the same virus responsible for causing chickenpox.

Shingles can cause painful rashes anywhere on the body. However, most often, it looks like a single stripe of blisters that wraps around one side of your body, typically on your neck, face, or torso. Shingles is characterized by a red skin rash that causes pain along with a burning sensation.

In individuals who have had chicken pox earlier, the virus continues to remain dormant in the nerve tissues surrounding the spinal cord and brain. After many years, this inactive virus may get reactivated in the form of shingles.

While shingles is not a life-threatening condition, it can turn out to be quite painful. However, early treatment reduces the risk of complications, and getting a vaccine can help reduce the risk of developing the infection.

The available vaccination for shingles is approved for those 50 years or older. However, it is recommended that the vaccine is given at the age of 60, when the risk of developing shingles is the highest.

Shingles progresses in three stages, more information about which is provided right below.

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Stages And Symptoms

Shingles can be classified into three stages based on the progression and varying symptoms in each stage.

1st Stage – Prodromal Phase

The first stage, also referred to as the prodromal phase, is often characterized by symptoms like:

  • Headache
  • Pain and burning sensation on one side of the body or in small patches all over the body
  • Malaise or discomfort
  • Photophobia

2nd Stage – Acute Phase

The second stage or acute phase is characterized by a dermatomal rash.

The characteristics of the rash include:

  • Fluid-filled blisters that can break easily
  • Red patches
  • A rash that tends to wrap around one side of your torso
  • The appearance of a rash on the face and ears

Such rashes are also accompanied by other symptoms like unbearable itching, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and pain. These rashes last for 7-10 days, and most affected individuals heal in 4 weeks.

3rd Stage

The third stage of shingles is usually not experienced by all affected individuals. It is associated with complications like:

  • Rashes that involve the eyes
  • Postherpetic neuralgia – A condition that can affect the nerve fibers and skin
  • Loss of hearing, severe pain in one ear, dizziness, or loss of taste on your tongue that may be symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome
  • Subsequent bacterial infections

As we have already mentioned before, shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus that is also responsible for causing chickenpox. Let us now look into the causes and risk factors for shingles.

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Causes And Risk Factors For Shingles

Those with a history of chickenpox are at an increased risk of developing shingles. Once you recover from the former, the varicella-zoster virus that has already entered your nervous system continues to remain dormant there for years.

Eventually, it can get reactivated and travel via your nerve pathways and reach the surface of your skin. This results in shingles. But, not all individuals who have had chickenpox will develop shingles.

Some factors are associated with increasing your risk of developing shingles after having chickenpox. They include:

  • Age – Those over 50 years of age are at increased risk.
  • Certain medical conditions like HIV/AIDS and cancer that weaken your immunity can also increase your risk of getting shingles.
  • Undergoing cancer treatments
  • Certain medications like steroids

Administration of vaccines is widely followed to reduce the chances of getting shingles. There is no cure for shingles, but your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory, antiviral, narcotic, and antihistamine medications to ease the symptoms and shorten the length of the infection.

There are also some natural remedies available that can help in alleviating the symptoms of shingles. Some of the best ones are discussed right below.

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Home Remedies To Manage The Symptoms Of Shingles

  1. Oatmeal Baths
  2. Cold/Hot Compress
  3. Vitamins
  4. Coconut Oil
  5. Garlic
  6. Tea Tree Oil

Natural Remedies To Manage Shingles

1. Oatmeal Baths

Oatmeal Baths Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1-2 cups of oatmeal
  • Water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one to two cups of oatmeal to your bath filled with water.
  2. Soak in the bath for 15-20 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this once daily.

Why This Works

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of oatmeal can help soothe itchiness and inflammation in the affected area (2).

2. Cold/Hot Compress

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You Will Need

A cold compress

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply a cold/hot compress to the affected area.
  2. Place it there for 15-20 minutes and remove.
  3. Pat the area dry after removing the pack.
  4. Wash or dispose of the compress immediately.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this 1-2 times daily until the blisters stop oozing.

Why This Works

Cold compresses do a wonderful job in reducing inflammation and swelling of the skin following an injury (3). Hence, they may also help in alleviating inflammation associated with shingles. Hot compresses are effective in treating the symptoms of cold sores (4). They may, therefore, also be effective in treating the symptoms of shingles.

3. Vitamins

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Vitamins C and D can help in the treatment of shingles. While vitamin D has immunomodulatory activities, intravenous vitamin C can help alleviate pain and other symptoms associated with the infection (5), (6).

Foods rich in these vitamins include citrus fruits, green leafy veggies, cheese, eggs, and fish. It is best to consult a doctor before going ahead with additional supplements for these vitamins.

4. Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil
  • Cotton balls
What You Have To Do
  1. Using a cotton ball, apply some virgin coconut oil to the affected areas.
  2. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes before rinsing it off.
  3. Discard the used cotton ball.
How Often You Should Do This

You may do this 1-2 times daily.

Why This Works

The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of coconut oil can help in alleviating itching and pain that occur with shingles (7).

5. Garlic

Garlic Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • Cotton pads
What You Have To Do
  1. Take four to five garlic cloves and peel them.
  2. Crush the cloves and apply the mixture to the affected area using a cotton ball or cotton pad.
  3. Leave it on for 15-30 minutes before rinsing off with water.
  4. Discard the used cotton balls.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1-2 times daily.

Why This Works

The antiviral and anti-inflammatory nature of the garlic compounds can help in combating the symptoms of inflammation and pain while also fighting the virus responsible for triggering the infection (8), (9).

6. Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 3 drops of tea tree oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil
  • Cotton balls
What You Have To Do
  1. Add three drops of tea tree oil to one to two teaspoons of coconut oil. Mix well.
  2. Using a cotton ball, apply the mixture to the affected area.
  3. Leave it on for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Rinse it off with warm water.
  5. Discard the used cotton ball.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1 or 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Tea tree oil possesses impressive anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the itching and pain associated with shingles. Its antiviral nature can help speed up your recovery (10).

You may also follow the below tips to prevent the onset of shingles.

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How To Prevent Shingles

  • Get yourself and your kids vaccinated for chickenpox if you have never had the disease. The vaccine may not necessarily prevent everyone from getting chickenpox, but it has been reported to be successful in 9 out of 10 individuals who took it.
  • Adults in the age group of 50-60 years should take a vaccination for shingles.

As shingles is contagious, it is important that you take precautions to prevent spreading of the infection to other individuals.
Here’s what you need to do:

  • Keep your rash/blisters covered until they dry completely.
  • Avoid contact with individuals who have never had chickenpox or have weak immunity.
  • Avoid sharing of utensils.
  • Wash your hands frequently.

Vaccination is one of the widely accepted and successful ways to prevent shingles. However, if you end up developing the infection despite taking all the precautions you could have, don’t be disheartened. Most cases of the infection are mild and will start easing within a few days or weeks.

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Do you have any more doubts regarding this infection? Don’t hesitate to ask us in the comments section below.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Who shouldn’t get the shingles vaccine and what are the side effects?

The shingles vaccine contains certain compounds that can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Hence, it is best to avoid this vaccine (Shingrix) if:
• You had a severe reaction to the vaccine after your first dose.
• You were found to have an allergy to one or more compounds of the shingles vaccine.
• You have shingles currently.
• You are breastfeeding/pregnant.
• You tested negative for the varicella-zoster virus.
Some mild side effects of this vaccine include:
• Redness, swelling, or itching
• Soreness at the injection site
• Headache
Severe side effects of the vaccine are often a result of a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. They may include:
• Swelling of the whole face, including your throat, mouth, and eyes
• Hives
• Wheezing
• Redness of the skin
• Dizziness
• Irregular heartbeats

What not to eat when you have shingles?

Some foods that can weaken your immune system and potentially prolong shingles are:
• Sugary foods and drinks
• Arginine-rich foods like nuts, chocolate, and gelatin
• Foods high that are high in saturated fats
• Refined carbohydrates

How long are shingles contagious?

Shingles are contagious until all the blisters have scabbed or dried up. This will take up to 10-14 days.

What is the best cream to put on shingles?

Calamine lotion can provide relief from itching. Capsaicin cream is also prescribed by some doctors. If you are looking for natural alternatives, some of the above remedies like tea tree oil and coconut oil may help.

What foods heal shingles?

Foods that can boost your immunity will also speed your recovery from shingles. Such foods include:
• Yellow fruits
• Oranges
• Green leafy vegetables
• Eggs
• Chicken
• Vitamin C-rich citrus fruits
• Vitamin D-rich foods like fish, eggs, and cheese

When to see a doctor for shingles?

You must see a doctor the moment you suspect the infection or notice formation of unusual blisters on your body. It is recommended that you wait no more than three days from the onset of the rash.

References

  1. Shingles (Herpes Zoster)” Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Oatmeal in dermatology: a brief review.” Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. Effects of Topical Icing on Inflammation, Angiogenesis, Revascularization, and Myofiber Regeneration in Skeletal Muscle Following Contusion Injury” Frontiers in Physiology, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. The use of local concentrated heat versus topical acyclovir for a herpes labialis outbreak: results of a pilot study under real life conditions” Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine.
  5. Vitamin D is closely linked to the clinical courses of herpes zoster: From pathogenesis to complications” Medical Hypotheses, US National Library of Medicine.
  6. Intravenous Vitamin C in the treatment of shingles: Results of a multicenter prospective cohort study” Medical Science Monitor, US National Library of Medicine.
  7. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil.” Pharmaceutical Biology, US National Library of Medicine.
  8. Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds” Journal of Immunology Research, US National Library of Medicine.
  9. In vitro virucidal effects of Allium sativum (garlic) extract and compounds.” Planta Medica, US National Library of Medicine.
  10. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties” Clinical Microbiology Reviews, US National Library of Medicine.
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