When you have chicken pox, the varicella-zoster virus that caused it remains in your system but lies dormant for years. When the virus reactivates, for any number of reasons, it appears as a localized rash called herpes zoster, or shingles. Shingles can appear anywhere on the body, and begins as a red patch of skin, but within a few days painful blisters appear. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, shingles blisters can last for 2 to 3 weeks. They are itchy and painful, but there are steps you can take to treat the blisters and minimize their discomfort.
Make an appointment with your doctor at the first suspicion of shingles. Your doctor may prescribe a type of drug called a corticosteroid, along with an antiviral drug. According to St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center in New York, the combination of these two drugs helps reduce the inflammation and pain associated with shingles, as well as shortens the duration of the rash.
Take over-the-counter medicines to make yourself more comfortable during your bout with shingles. Antihistamines help block the itching associated with the shingles rash and are available in pill form or in a topical lotion or cream. Aspirin and ibuprofen are excellent choices to reduce pain, and they also are anti-inflammatories, which will reduce the swelling in the rash area.
Add colloidal oatmeal to your bath. Keeping your shingles rash clean is imperative in preventing spread and infection, so bathing is necessary. When you bathe, add a packet of colloidal oatmeal to your bath water to help relieve the itchiness and irritation that shingles brings to the skin. The Mayo Clinic recommends sprinkling it in cool bath water for shingles treatment. Colloidal oatmeal is available in most pharmacies and department stores.
Apply cold compresses to the blister site. Cold compresses reduce the inflammation associated with the blisters, as well as relieve some of the pain and temporarily halt the itch.
Get some rest and relaxation. The Penn State Medical Center lists emotional stress as an activator of the varicella-zoster virus, causing the shingles rash. Getting plenty of rest and lowering stress levels allows the body's immune system to strengthen and help fight illness.
Things You'll Need
Over-the-counter pain medication
Antihistamine topical cream or pills
Colloidal oatmeal bath product
Wash all clothing, towels and washcloths that come in contact with your shingles blisters. This helps prevent the spread of the virus to others.
While your blisters are still full of liquid, avoid contact with those who have a weak immune system or are pregnant, because the herpes zoster virus is highly contagious and can cause complications in pregnancy.