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Shingles Alternative and Home Remedies

Oatmeal baths are an effective at-home remedy to help relieve the itch associated with shingles.

Rest can be an effective home remedy against the pain of shingles.. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Rest can be an effective home remedy against the pain of shingles..

Shingles Alternative and Home Remedies

Typically appearing in older adults, shingles is a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), and there are shingles alternative and home remedies available to help ease the discomfort and pain felt by patients. Shingles is generally a painful skin eruption that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, appears on one side of the face or body. Vaccination and prevention are the best strategies in fighting shingles, but in addition to a patient's traditional treatment choice path, there are many alternative and home remedy options available to replace or use in conjunction with prescription therapy. Treatment goals, whether traditional or alternative, should focus on shortening the duration and controlling the pain associated with the condition.

Lifestyle Adjustments

According to the Mayo Clinic, rest and avoidance of strenuous activities are recommended for those feeling weak and/or tired from the pain of their shingles. They also recommend avoiding stress, which appears to have a worsening affect on pain. Things to try might include listening to music or other relaxation techniques.

Distraction is another technique that patients can use to diminish the discomfort of shingles. Focusing on pain and itching can cause patients to feel stress or obsessively scratch their sores, which can lead to further complications like infection. Patients can take their minds off their condition by getting involved in non-stressful activities, such as working on a hobby or reading a book.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, tai chi has been found to boost the immunity to the shingles virus in older adults. Tai chi is a traditional form of Chinese exercise that combines relaxation, meditation and aerobic activity. The clinical trial performed at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggested that tai chi might not only help older adults boost their immunity to VZV, but that it also boosts the response to the shingles vaccination.

Anti-itch Solutions

Another adjustment that can be made is to wash the blisters, caused by shingles, twice a day with regular soap and water, and then leave them uncovered to breathe. It is important for the patient to note that the shingles virus can be passed to another person who has not had chickenpox via the open rash during the blister phase, so covering the sores is recommended if going out in public or going around people who have not had chickenpox before. The virus is only contagious when the blisters are active.

Cool, wet compresses applied to the blisters can help relieve pain and itching associated with shingles. Compresses can be made in two ways. Patients can simply use water by itself or create a compress using water and vinegar, adding 1 ounce of white vinegar to 32 ounces of water. Compresses should be applied 3 times a day while the pain and itching persist. Necrotic lesions require compresses 2 to 3 times daily to aid in the removal of debris.

Cool baths are another soothing anti-itch solution that gives patients relief. Baking soda can be added to the bath to help with itching. Uncooked oatmeal can also be used in the cool baths to help alleviate the itching associated with shingles. Relief from these symptoms is important because it can stop the patient from scratching the blisters on the skin and potentially causing scarring or infection.

Pain Management

The American Chronic Pain Association offers helpful video clips from their ACPA's Pathways Through Pain video series, such as their Relaxation Guide, to help those living with daily pain find a way to naturally ease their discomfort. They also have helpful resources, such as their steps to take in dealing with overall pain management, that include acceptance, involvement in the recovery process, priority and goal setting, knowing one's rights and seeing the big picture as well as finding the right support system.

According to the National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain, a reduction in quality of life can lead to depression, so dealing with the depression symptoms is part of the pain management process. Although depression is usually associated with long-term, chronic symptoms, pain management may be additionally helpful for patients suffering depression brought on by shingles.

Alternate Remedy Warnings

Although some websites and manufacturers market products toward specific conditions like shingles, it is important to consult with a physician before taking any alternate or home remedies. There may be additional side effects of using alternate medications, like colloidal silver, which has possible side effects of skin discoloration or irritation, kidney damage and headaches. Physicians can work with patients suffering from shingles to guide them toward safe and effective alternatives to traditional medications.

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