Itching and pain are two complaints associated with shingles. While more common in people over the age of 50 or those with suppressed immune systems, shingles can afflict anyone who’s had the chickenpox. The varicella-zoster virus responsible for chickenpox stays inside the body lying dormant in the nervous system, often for years. When the virus awakens and travels down the neural pathways to the skin, the result is a red, blister-like rash, both itchy and painful, that usually presents on one side of the body.
Although shingles rash usually resolves on its own in a few weeks, the Mayo Clinic notes that discomfort associated with shingles (also known as herpes zoster) can range from mild to severe. Your physician may choose to offer prescription medications, such as oral antivirals and steroid medications, and in some instances, shingles may be so uncomfortable as to warrant use of prescription narcotic medications. But mild shingles itching and pain may be managed by use of over-the-counter treatments and home remedies.
Stop Shingles Itch and Pain
1. See your doctor if the pain and itching associated with shingles are untenable, or if the rash erupts anywhere on your face. As noted, prescription medications can help reduce the severity of symptoms and help the rash resolve more quickly. Shingles on your face can cause severe complications, notes the Mayo Clinic, including vision loss, compromised hearing, problems with balance and even facial paralysis.
2. Use over-the-counter oral medications to address shingles discomfort. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that your doctor may simply suggest a pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin). The Mayo Clinic notes that over-the-counter oral antihistamines can also assuage shingles itching.
3. Apply soothing anti-itch topical creams or lotions to stop shingles itching. The AAFP and Mayo Clinic mentions the trade names Benadryl, Caladryl and Calamine lotion, any of which can be applied to the rash. (If shingles itching and pain are severe, your physician may prescribe a topical agent with numbing properties, such as lidocaine.)
4. Make use of simple home remedies, such as cool baths. The National Institutes of Health notes that colloidal oatmeal baths and starch baths may be helpful. Cool, damp compresses can also be applied to the rash to alleviate shingles itching.