Shingles is a painful rash that can happen to people who have had chickenpox or been immunized against it. Shingles is not contagious and cannot spread from person to person as chickenpox can. However, the virus lives in your nerve roots and can come out of remission for many reasons, such as stress or a weakened immune system.
The pain from the shingles can be excruciating, and many people wonder if there are over-the-counter remedies for relief. In this article, we will discuss the treatment options available for shingles and whether over-the-counter creams can relieve shingles symptoms.
Treatment of shingles
Medical therapy of shingles include:
- Doctors may prescribe antiviral medicines such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir, which reduce the symptoms of the infection, providing fast relief. This is most effective when administered at the onset of symptoms.
- Topical creams, lotions, patches, powders, and sprays for relieving shingles that typically contain topical acyclovir, lidocaine, and capsaicin. This typically provides a numbing effect.
- Antibiotics will also be administered if the bacterial infection spreads throughout the skin and rashes.
- Soothing lotions containing calamine are also commonly used to reduce pain and soothe the skin.
- Pained and inflamed skin can be relieved through the application of a wet compress.
- Antihistamines can be taken both orally or applied via a topical cream. This also helps to relieve the itch.
In addition to those mentioned above, there are also several other treatments for shingles that can help with relieving symptoms.
- Applying essential oils which have anti-inflammatory properties onto the affected areas such as chamomile oil, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil.
- The art of inserting very tiny needles into the skin at specific “chi” points is known as acupuncture. This is normally done together with cupping, which is a form of heat therapy to draw out the body’s toxins.
- Applying topical witch hazel creams can also help to reduce itchiness and the urge to scratch. This allows the inflamed skin to heal properly.
- Natural manuka or clover honey can also be applied to the skin for relief.
- Swelling and blisters are sometimes reduced by applying a mixture of liquid dimethyl sulfoxide and idoxuridine, an antiviral drug.
- A chemical in plants that gives them their characteristic green color, Chlorophyll, can also be administered topically on the affected area in its cream or solution form. (Pathak, 2021)
- Making sure to keep the affected areas clean and dry, and covering the inflammation with loosely bound dressing for protection. Tight-fitting clothes should not be worn as they will increase discomfort and not allow the skin to breathe.
- Showering gently with cool, clean water helps to ensure that sores and blisters are kept clean as they’re healing. It also relieves itchiness and pain.
- Gentiana scabra is a blue or purple flower growing commonly throughout North America. Oral consumption of a herbal mixture derived from these flowers are said to be able to calm and relieve pain from shingles, and reducing the possible onset of postherpetic neuralgia (Crichton-Stuart, 2018)
- Incorporating food with carotenoids such as lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and provitamin A helps improve immune function. While this is a non-extensive list, foods that are said to be high in carotenoids include orange foods such as carrot, pumpkin, and apricot; red foods such as watermelon, red pepper, grapefruit, and cherry; and green foods such as kale, parsley, spinach, melon, lettuce, and endive. Limiting the intake of trans and saturated fats, as well as avoiding added sugar and salt, can also reduce inflammation and improve immune function
- Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and reducing stress, which will help to boost immunity and improve the healing function of the body
Can One Relieve Shingles With Over the Counter Creams?
As mentioned above, antiviral medications are prescription medications. Therefore over the counter creams do not provide any antiviral activity. However, topical creams containing lidocaine, capsaicin, or calamine may help relieve symptoms of shingles such as redness, pain, and itching. Alternative treatments that can be topically applied include witch hazel cream, essential oils, manuka or clover honey, and Chlorophyll. While over-the-counter creams can help relieve symptoms, it is advised that you check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure that these creams will not interact negatively with your existing medication before applying them.
Shingles is a serious condition that can be painful and uncomfortable. It is important to note that people who get shingles have a higher risk of getting postherpetic neuralgia which causes pain for months or years after the blisters have healed. Additionally, more severe conditions such as pneumonia may develop due to weakened immunity caused by shingles. It is therefore essential to seek out treatment as soon as possible. There are various treatment options, from medical therapy to natural remedies and lifestyle adjustments, that can immediately help with pain and itchiness while also reducing the duration and severity of the infection. As discussed, over-the-counter creams can help treat symptoms of shingles. However, it is essential to consult with your doctor or pharmacist before using these creams.
Crichton-Stuart, C. (2018, June 14). 10 natural treatments and home remedies for shingles. Medical News Today
Pathak, N. (2021, August 11). Shingles treatment, medication, & prevention: Pain relief, antiviral. WebMD. Retrieved September 12, 2021
Stankus, S. J., Dlugopolski, M., & Packer, D. (2000, April 15). Management of herpes Zoster (Shingles) And Postherpetic Neuralgia. American Family Physician