Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Although shingles can occur anywhere on your body, it most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso.
Shingles is more common in older adults and in people who have weakened immune systems.
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you've had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.
The most common signs and symptoms of shingles include:
- Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
- Sensitivity to touch
- A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
- Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
Self-Care & Lifestyle Tips
Avoid physical contact with anyone who hasn’t yet had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. Shingles is contagious to anyone who isn’t immune to chickenpox, usually through direct contact with the open sores of the rash. Avoid contact, especially with people who have weakened immune systems, pregnant women and newborns.
Take oatmeal baths or use calamine lotion as it may help soothe your skin.
Take a cool bath or use cool, wet compresses on your blisters 20 minutes at a time to help relieve the itching and pain. It will also keep your blisters clean which will help you avoid skin infections. (NOTE: Stop using cold compresses if your blisters aren’t oozing anymore. If you are using creams or patches on your rash, do not use compresses at the same time).
Wear loose-fitting, natural-fiber clothing, such as cotton or linen, to give you more comfort.
Get plenty of rest and eat well-balanced meals to give your body the support it needs while it works hard to fight the virus.
Avoid stress, if possible, as stress can make the pain worse. Relaxation can go a long way. With a calmer mind, you can better handle your discomfort. Try meditation, tai chi, walking or yoga
Try gentle exercises like walking or stretching as light activity can take your mind off the pain. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Distract yourself to take your mind off your pain. For example, watch TV, read, talk with friends, listen to relaxing music, or work on a hobby you enjoy.