How to Survive Shingles

The last thing I expected to have to deal with at 46 years old was Shingles. An extremely uncomfortable condition that I would not want anyone to deal with. My hope is that through this article I can help those who are currently suffering through Shingles and make the experience as painless as possible.

First let me say that if you are reading this because you ‘think’ you have Shingles and haven’t visited your doctor yet, stop. Shingles is caused by the chicken pox virus that lays dormant in your body after you have chicken pox as a child. Extreme stress or a suppressed immune system can cause the virus to ‘reactivate’ and you get Shingles. Call your doctor and make an appointment. Do this especially if it is a deep, deep itch and you have noticed a rash starting to appear. The sooner you get to your doctor the sooner treatment can begin. Let the doctor diagnose you and then come back and finish reading this article. It is only intended to help you through Shingles after you know you have them!

Before I even suspected I had Shingles, I started having this really deep itching sensation in my lower, right back. It was like an itch that wouldn’t stop and it was a deep itch. I would scratch it and it would feel good, or my husband would scratch it and it was wonderful! But nothing would make it stop itching! Of course, nobody goes to the doctor for an itch no matter how deep, so I thought nothing of it and let my husband continue scratching my back and I enjoyed it.

Then, the rash appeared. I am not a person who runs to the doctor every time I have a sniffle, as a matter of fact it had probably been 3 years since I had last visited my primary care physician. I still didn’t rush to the doctor. About a week before this all started happening I had started a new regimen of taking 2 extra strength antacids to fulfill my needed daily calcium intake. So because of this I was actually thinking that maybe I had an allergy to the antacid, so I quite taking them. This did not make the rash go away and it actually continued to get worse.

By now it was the weekend so I started doing some internet research to find out if others may have an allergy to antacids and what the symptoms were. In doing this I discovered that I probably had Shingles instead. In my ever optimistic way, I kept hoping the rash would go away and did not make an appointment with my doctor when Monday rolled around. This just has to go away – right? Wrong!! By Tuesday I woke up with more rash than I had before and finally called the doctor. By 10:00 I was told it was definitely Shingles. The doctor called in a couple of prescriptions, one for an anti-viral and one for an anti-itch cream.

So, what to do after you know you have Shingles!!? What you do may depend on where the Shingles are. For me they started on the right lower back and came around my side to the front, a pattern of blisters that itch and hurt. I took a couple days off of work, mostly to figure out how I was going to deal with this. The first thing I decided I had to do was buy new underwear!! The ones I had rubbed the shingles along the waist and leg openings, so I bought cotton briefs which just about covered everything and kept my clothes from irritating the rash. Then I ventured off to the pj department to buy some long, baggy pj tops. When I went back to work I wore my clothes loose and always had a tank top or t-shirt under my tops to keeps the looser fabric from rubbing.

Since the blisters are supposed to pop, I headed off to the bandages and stocked up on gauze squares to protect my clothes when this happens. Save your money, when my blisters popped I only knew it because they crusted over. There was never really any type of mess at all! One thing I did buy that was really beneficial was a tube (or two) of anti-itch cream. The cream and over the counter pain

Relievers – ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc. – were the best things and provided the best relief (this is in addition to the prescriptions the doctor gave me which need to be taken as prescribed). Each morning I started out with a warm, soft washrag to clean the area before applying more cream, this felt really good as I could lightly scratch the area with the cloth without really scratching it with my fingernails, which by the way, really hurts! Once or twice I would forget and reach back and scratch the itch, I would highly advise that you don’t forget – it will hurt! Also, be sure to cleanup after yourself so you don’t contaminate others in your family. Use each washrag only once and throw in the dirty clothes. I used one bar of soap and told everyone else in the house to not touch it and I kept myself covered at all times. This may sound like overkill but I would have been devastated if I had given it to my husband, and I am sure you would be too!

One last thing, try not to just sit there and feel miserable! Keep doing as much as you can. I am one of those crazy people that has to do a workout every day. I continued to do this throughout this whole thing even though my workouts weren’t great or even at the same intensity that they were before, it felt really good to do it. I had to adapt a few of the exercises but in the end I was happier for working out than I would have been if I had just sat there!!

The rest you will have to figure out on your own. What you do will depend on where the Shingles are. I preferred standing to sitting because mine were on the waist, sitting was painful. Ultimately, it was the worst thing I have had to deal with. Labor and delivery was easier, and went away quicker! Good luck to you!

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