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Shingles: Tips for managing


Take good care of yourself

The right self-care can ease your discomfort while you have shingles and prevent another outbreak later.

While you have shingles, you want to take good care of yourself and the rash. Here’s what dermatologists recommend.

  1. See a doctor within 2 to 3 days of getting the rash. If you could have shingles, you want to see a doctor within 72 hours of getting the rash. Starting treatment within 72 hours of developing a rash can:

    • Reduce your symptoms, such as burning and stinging
    • Lessen the amount of time you have shingles
    • Lower your risk of developing other health problems, such as long-lasting pain that can linger for months or years after the rash clears

  2. Care for the rash every day until it clears. Most people see the blister-like rash start to scab in about 7 to 10 days. It usually takes between 2 and 4 weeks for the rash to go away completely.

    Until the rash clears completely, you want to do the following every day:

    • Wash the rash with a fragrance-free cleanser
    • Apply a thin layer of clean pure petroleum jelly
    • Cover the rash with a new, sterile, non-stick bandage
    • Wash your hands after touching the rash

  3. Treat uncomfortable skin safely and effectively. While your skin heals, the skin with the rash can feel extremely uncomfortable, and even painful. To ease this discomfort, dermatologists recommend the following:

    • Keep uncomfortable skin cool by applying a clean, cool, and damp washcloth several times a day. You want to apply it for 5 to 10 minutes each time.
    • Soak in a cool, oatmeal bath.
    • After the blisters have scabbed over, calm itchy skin by applying calamine lotion.

  4. Take good care of yourself while you have the shingles rash. The following can help you heal and feel better:

    • Get plenty of rest
    • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
    • Take your mind off your discomfort by doing activities that you enjoy, such as listening to music, watching TV, or reading
    • Avoid stress
    • Wear loose-fitting clothing made of cotton or linen

  5. Tell your doctor if you experience any other health problems. Some people who get shingles develop other health problems. Call your doctor’s office right away if you have any of the following:

    • The rash shows signs of infection, such as swelling, pus, or not clearing
    • Pain continues after the rash clears
    • You feel unwell after the rash clears

  6. Talk with your doctor about getting the shingles vaccine. You can get shingles again. A shingles vaccine that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved in 2017 can greatly reduce your risk of developing shingles again.

    Most people who are otherwise healthy can get this vaccine after the rash clears completely.

    Your doctor can tell you if this vaccine is right for you. If it is, your doctor can tell you when you can have it.

    You can learn more about this vaccine at, Shingles vaccine (CDC).

  7. Prevent others from getting sick. Until the shingles rash clears, you are contagious.

    Anyone who has not had chickenpox (or the vaccine for chickenpox) can catch the virus. This could cause chickenpox. To avoid infecting others, who could get chickenpox and later shingles, dermatologists recommend that you do the following until the rash clears:

    • Cover the rash
    • Avoid touching and scratching your rash
    • Stay away from pregnant women, babies 12 months old or younger, anyone who is sick, and everyone who has not had chickenpox


Dermatologists give their patients self-care tips like these every day to help them feel more comfortable in their own skin. You can receive tips for doing just that by signing up for the AAD’s monthly e-newsletter.

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References
American Academy of Dermatology. “Dermatologists share tips for treating shingles.” News release issued 3/10/2015. Last accessed 4/1/2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Shingles.” Page last reviewed 10/17/2017. Last accessed 4/1/2019.

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