Symptoms and Treatment of Shingles Rash

Sometimes people are confused when they see the telltale signs of a shingles rash. "Looks like I have a spider bite," some people say initially. Then, later, they surmise, "Perhaps it's just hives -- an allergic reaction to something." As the rash begins to spread, they wonder, "Have I come into contact with poison sumac, poison oak or poison ivy perhaps?" The easiest way to eliminate these other suspects is to understand that the herpes viruses are unique in that they are accompanied by pain. Other allergic reaction rashes are itchy, but they don't physically hurt.  

By the time you notice the red patches of the shingles rash on your skin, you have already had an active herpes virus in your system for one or two days. The shingles painful rash develops on one side of the face, chest or abdomen, where the nerves have been carrying the virus. The area where the rash develops is usually red, swollen and painful. The blistering is a brighter red and clusters together to form a "band-like" pattern around the body. During this time, an infected person could transmit the chickenpox virus to people who have never had it before. After three to five days, the blisters will scab over and the contagiousness phase is over. Within 2-4 weeks, the scabs fall off and the skin begins to heal.

Antiviral drugs are the first line of defense against the shingles rash. Ideally, they will be administered within 72 hours of the sight of shingles symptoms to reduce their severity and duration. Common pain prescriptions include acyclovir/Zovirax, valacyclovir/Valtrex and famciclovir/Famvir. In clinical studies, patients taking Famvir saw their shingles lesion heal 30% faster than those taking a placebo. Side effects of Famvir may include nausea, diarrhea and headaches. Side effects of Zovirax in 11% of patients is malaise, an overall feeling of discomfort, lethargy and confusion. Possible side effects of Valtrex may include headaches, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, sore throat, colds and dizziness.  

There are many over-the-counter pain medicine options to relieve the shingles rash pain. NSAIDs like ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil and Tylenol are commonly taken. Anti-itch creams containing hydrocortisone, like Cortaid or Aveeno Anti-itch Cream, can be found in most drug stores as well. Calamine lotion is commonly used on children with chickenpox, but it also works on shingles patients. For people with severe itching, Benadryl often helps.

Related topics about shingles rash
Shingles Herpes
The frightening thing about shingles herpes, genital herpes and oral herpes is that once you've got it, you're stuck with it. While there are treatments and pain medicine options aimed at soothing an acute outbreak, the virus still lies dormant in the cells for years and years. Currently, researchers are learning more about how killer T-cells get inadvertently "turned off" by this family of viruses -- not to mention HIV, another immune-attacking virus.

Shingles Symptoms
Shingles is an infection of the skin that is caused by the varicella zoster virus. People that have shingles develop the condition in childhood in the form of chicken pox, but there are also a few adults that contract the shingles symptoms as well. The virus can remain dormant in the bloodstream for years before it becomes noticeable, so you'll need to make sure that you are continuously aware of the symptoms if you or your child have had chicken pox in the past.

Shingles Pain
Most adults can still recall the mental and physical pain of childhood chickenpox. We remember the baking soda baths, the calamine lotion, the intense urge to itch our scabs until they bled, the feverishness, the fatigue, the embarrassment of being covered in those hideous red dots and the solitude of being locked away until healed. Later in life, the virus can re-emerge again as shingles, an even more painful version of the herpes virus.