Do you remember having chickenpox?
Do you remember staying home from school, covered in itchy, red, blistery bumps?
Do you remember the itch that almost drove you crazy, covered in calamine lotion, while your mom chastised you for scratching?
Probably not until I reminded you. But if you have ever had chickenpox or even been vaccinated for it, you are at risk of getting shingles.
What Is Shingles?
After the chickenpox clears and you’ve long forgotten the havoc it wreaked, the virus stays in the body. If it reactivates, you could get shingles. It’s not clear what actually reactivates or “wakes up” the virus, but a short-term weakness in immunity may play a role. Herpes zoster, or shingles, is accompanied by a painful, blistering rash.
“Although shingles is much less contagious and itchy than chickenpox, it tends to cause more pain,” said board-certified dermatologist Daniela Kroshinsky, MD, MPH, FAAD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Harvard Medical School. “In addition, although the shingles rash usually clears in a few weeks, some people can experience pain, numbness, itching and tingling that can last months or even years.” This nerve pain, called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) can last for years after the rash goes away.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one million Americans experience shingles every year. The disease is most common in older adults.
You can only get shingles if you’ve already had chickenpox or been vaccinated for it. If you’ve never been exposed to chickenpox and come into someone with shingles, you may develop chickenpox.
What Does Shingles Look Like?
Typically, when shingles rears its head, it usually takes the following course:
- An area of your skin may burn, itch, tingle, or feel very sensitive. This usually happens only on one side of the body in a small area. These symptoms may be constant or come and go. Most people will experience this for one to three days, but it can sometimes last longer.
- A rash begins to form in that same area.
- The rash turns into clusters of clear blisters, which then turn yellow or bloody before crusting over and healing. They last usually two to three weeks and can be quite painful. These blisters can carry the virus, causing you to be contagious, so never scratch or pop them.
- The pain can last two to four weeks and varies in variety and intensity. There may be a tingling or pins-and-needles sensation, itching, burning, and/or a deep pain. The skin may feel painful when touched.
- There may be a fever or flu-like symptoms including a headache and/or fever associated with it.
- It’s possible there could be short-term weakness of certain muscles, though it’s rarely life-long.
What To Do For Shingles Discomfort.
The symptoms usually last two to four weeks, but the pain, burning, itching, and all-around discomfort can make the symptoms tough to ride out. Your doctor will typically prescribe an antiviral medication to fight the virus and a corticosteroid like prednisone to combat the pain and swelling (inflammation), though this treatment is not common as it can cause the rash to spread. Sometimes the pain is severe enough for your doctor to prescribe medication, though the pain tends to lessen once the blisters heal, which may take two to three weeks.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends some tips for helping to relieve your skin of the pain and discomfort of shingles:
- See a dermatologist as soon as your symptoms appear. When prescribed within the first 72 hours of the rash appearing, antiviral medications may make your symptoms milder and shorter.
- Cool the rash by applying ice packs, cool wet cloths, or by taking cool baths. Add colloidal oatmeal to help calm the itching.
- Apply calamine lotion to the rash and blisters.
- Cover the area(s) with loose, non-stick, sterile bandages.
- Wear loose-fitting cotton clothing to avoid causing your sensitive skin further discomfort.
A Natural Pain-Relieving Anti-Inflammatory
One product stands out above the rest for relieving the pain and symptoms associated with inflammation: SciaEssentials DELTA-5. When treating already-irritated skin, it’s important to use an approach that doesn’t further anger the skin. DELTA-5 is a patented and effective, yet gentle approach to reducing inflammation. It’s lightweight, non-greasy formula doesn’t clog pores or cause acne.
DELTA-5’s first ingredient is a powerful fatty acid that halts the inflammatory process in its tracks. It has both the ability to heal and protect, providing relief from itchy, irritated, red, and inflamed skin.
To use, apply two to three times daily to affected area(s). You can apply this soothing oil directly on the areas with rash, or mix a drop in with the calamine lotion to provide both cooling, and anti-inflammatory relief.