Remember that time I got shingles on the face? I know I won’t be forgetting that experience anytime soon…For anyone who has had or currently has shingles, you know this is a pain you won’t soon forget. They call it adult chickenpox, but I can assure you it’s far worse than chickenpox ever was (some of us actually got chickenpox pre chickenpox vaccine!).
I’m going to skip over the whole medical diagnosis part since your doctor should probably be the one doing that but instead describe my personal experience with shingles i.e. herpes zoster virus and how to recover from shingles quickly.
The first thing I did when I got diagnosed, was immediately take to the internet to see if anyone had helpful tips for healing shingles fast. I read a lot of shingles horror stories, some not-so-horror stories but also some really productive tips. I’m hoping this post can be that for some of you. Or if you have a friend or family member suffering, feel free to pass onto them. We got this!
So, first things first…
A couple days before the infamous shingles rash appeared, my lymph nodes on the left side of my neck and ear were super inflamed and I felt like I had a fever. I then developed a lot of pain in my ear with a monstrous headache, so the next day I went to the doctor to see if I had an ear infection. That morning I noticed two huge zits on my forehead which I thought was strange (because I never breakout on my forehead) but they didn’t occur to me as anything but zits. You know those huge underground zits you get? They looked and felt like those.
My doctor looked in my ear, felt my lymph nodes and informed me I did not have an ear infection but likely some kind of virus that my body was trying to fight. Neither of us thought anything of the zits and I went home feeling pretty crappy but relieved it wasn’t an ear infection.
Over the next few hours is when the rash really started to develop. A few more bumps on my forehead, one on my eyebrow and those big “zits” also known as “shingles blisters” started to become really painful. The pain I felt in my ear started moving into my head and my swollen lymph nodes made it difficult to turn my neck. I later found out that the pain in my ear was likely caused by the fact that the shingles on my face developed in my trigeminal nerve which is right next to your middle ear.
I knew pretty much as soon as the pain migrated to my forehead that I had shingles. People have been shocked to discover that you can a) get shingles under the age of 60 and b) get shingles on your face. I knew both were possible because my Mom had them on her face when I was really young. Thankfully that situation clued me into what was happening with my own body but for any of you out there who don’t know this, you can get shingles at any age and they can happen at any nerve root in your body, including your face!
Because I pretty quickly tuned into what was happening, I was able to get started with my shingles recovery fairly quickly. According to the CDC, if you manage to diagnose shingles within 72 hours of the blisters appearing, the antiviral medications (typically acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir) are most effective.
I’m lucky I caught it within that window and am certain I was able to recover from shingles fast because of this. Of course, not everyone will know right away, but if you have a gut feeling or any of the symptoms I described above, go to your doctor!
Besides my antiviral 3x a day I was also prescribed pain meds, which I honestly didn’t end up taking. Heavy pain meds make me feel sick and groggy so except for the first two days when the pain was pretty excruciating, I used advil (ibuprofen) and tylenol (acetaminophen) to help manage the pain.
Eventually the pain dissipated and was followed by itching as the scabs dried and healed over. This is the typical course of shingles in which it starts with pain + tingling and then the rash appears. Once the rash scabs over you are no longer contagious.
Of course, I also turned to diet and lifestyle choices to also help manage the symptoms. I’m fairly confident that in addition to the antivirals, these choices helped to decrease the span of my shingles experience. So let’s get into that…
HOW TO RECOVER FROM SHINGLES QUICKLY
I think the most important piece of this post is this section. Of course, catching it early and taking the antivirals helps a ton but shingles is so much more than just popping some pills and hoping for the best. I’m not here to throw conventional medicine under the rug. I don’t think I’d have had such a quick turnaround if it hadn’t been for the full course of antivirals I took, but there are a lot of natural treatments you can incorporate to also help speed up the process and the pain and itchiness that typically ensues.
In addition to OTC pain meds, I used CBD and THC to help manage the pain. I’ve been playing around with different types of CBD and found the Calm pen from Dosist to be most effective. For THC I used topical salve on the rash itself and it was literally a godsend to help manage the pain. It was basically like a more effective calamine lotion.
There’s a reason your body craves broth when you’re sick. Bone broth is super anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting. It contains vitamins and minerals that help support gut health and reduce pain and inflammation. Generally a good idea to consume bone broth with a weakened immune system.
I’ve had two cups of bone broth every single day for the last two weeks. Currently obsessed with Kettle and Fire and especially their mushroom and chicken broth! Use code THEHEALTHYMAVEN to save 20% off your first order.
When they say “it all starts in your gut”, they’re not kidding! After my bout with SIBO I had to eliminate and then slowly add in fermented foods and probiotics. It’s been almost 6 months since then and I am now happily back to taking my daily probiotic and guzzling my Healthade kombucha. 5:00 PM became my “kombucha happy hour”.
Pretty much everyone under the sun will recommend a different supplement to you when they hear you have shingles. Truthfully, there are many MANY out there that could benefit you, shingles or not. I decided to stick with what I had from my Care/of packs and add in one that was consensus amongst everyone, L-Lysine.
Zinc – supports immune function and has an antiviral effect
L-lysine – an amino acid that helps reduce the spread of the shingles virus
Rhodiola – an adaptogenic herb that’s shown stress relieving properties
Astragalus – another herb that helps support immune function and has an antiviral effect
I wasn’t sure which category to put this under, so instead it gets a category of it’s own. Lemon Balm is an herb that is known to help reduce pain from shingles specifically, both internally and topically. I pretty much got all my hydration from drinking 6-8 cups of Lemon Balm Tea a day and once the initial couple of days of pain went down, I used a topical lemon balm cream to help reduce inflammation, reduce pain and help promote healing. Someone on Instagram told me to order this Lemon Balm Salve from Amazon and it was literally the best advice I got from everyone. Within a week the rash had gone done and had begun healing.
I am a true believer in the healing power of food. Now I don’t think eating perfectly “clean” replaces other lifestyle habits or conventional medicine, but it is a great tertiary care to support your body. And truthfully, when you’re sick (at least when I’m sick), I’m not craving the same foods I normally do. I think when you really tap in and listen you’ll realize that the foods you crave like bone broth and vegetables are actually your body’s way of supporting you.
In my case I literally wanted all the warm, green veggies in broth. Particularly kale and bok choy. Interestingly my acupuncturist told me that bok choy is a common healing and cooling food in Traditional Chinese Medicine and that because shingles is excessive heat in your body, bok choy was a great cooling choice. Our bodies are crazy!
In addition to plenty of veggies, I also found myself gravitating towards antioxidant fruits like berries and lots of bananas. I didn’t intentionally do it, but I pretty much ate zero refined sugar for a week. As I started to feel better I was like “give me the brownies!!!” but while I was still heavy in the pain-zone I didn’t want any of it.
I also consumed more turmeric that I ever thought I could and especially loved it in my morning Matcha and Turmeric Latte. My body was NOT craving coffee so my morning matcha really did the trick.
I’ll be honest, when I’m sick I often turn to essential oils for primary support, but for shingles they definitely played second fiddle. I rubbed fortify on my chest and neck lymph nodes to support my immune system and diffused grounding and soothing blends like unwind, spa spirit and tranquility to help stay calm and promote self-care and relaxation.
I personally didn’t do this because I had shingles on my face but if you have shingles on the side of the body (the most common) or somewhere you can soak in a bath, people swear by oatmeal baths to help relieve pain and improve symptoms.
Note: After about two weeks I began seeing an acupuncturist to help with some peripheral nerve pain that remained even after the rash had healed. I highly recommend if you’re still dealing with pain but are out of the itchiness and scabbing phase.
THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP FOR SHINGLES
I know that this is a lot of information so give yourself time to take it all in. Perhaps, more importantly take this one piece of advice: RELAX. Shingles is usually brought on by stress in your life. While I didn’t think I had a lot of stress (I’ve become a lot better at managing it!), when I listed everything on my plate it’s easy to see how my body was overburdened.
The biggest lesson learned through this process is how important it is to really, truly support your body. People often mentioned how lucky I was to be able to have a job that works from home, but when you’re sick it’s easy to just reach for your phone in bed or work on a project while recovering on the couch. The boundaries are less clear. Though I did the bare minimum I needed to do, I mostly took a lot of time to rest, nap, journal, watch TV and essentially do nothing.
Acknowledging those stressors and putting in plans of action to eliminate or diffuse them is the key to getting over shingles.
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Also if you’re over 60 there is a shingles vaccination (called shingrix) which you can ask your doctor about. And yes, it’s still worth getting even if you’ve had shingles as you can get it more than once!
Have you ever had or currently have shingles? Any tips to add? Drop them below!
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elizabethFebruary 9, 2023 at 2:19 pm
Hi I realize this is a bit late, but you mentioned “huge zits” and I just wanted to inquire more about that. Did those zits on your forehead develop into the typical shingles presentation redish bump with tiny blisters? I ask because I diagnosed with this. I do have the standard presentation of redish bump with little blisters just below my brow, near my eye and a swollen lid. However, I also got “huge zits” on my forhead and same eyebrow and nose (all on the left side of my face), but they never fully transformed into the tiny blisters. They are or rather were large, red/angry looking and painful to touch. I have lots of nerve-like aches too. They are slowly getting smaller and healing up like the shingles patch near my eye. Just wondering if they are some weird inflamtion response to the shingles or they are shingles sans blisters. ha ha Weird question I know. -Elizabeth
Julie SpencerJuly 15, 2022 at 2:42 pm
I was diagnosed with shingles 4 days ago, I am 64 years old, back in may I was diagnosed with early stages of breast cancer, and have a weakened immune system. Monday I had to have a breast MRI the pain started to shoot through my body, the pain is on the left-hand side, and a day or so before I was constantly itching on my left side, but thought I had been bitten. The pain is so severe my doctor thinks it’s attacking my left kidney, I am on Aciclovir medication as well as ibuprofen, and I feel extremely tired. Any suggestion to help relieve the pain would be appreciated. many thanks
PeggyMarch 29, 2023 at 3:01 pm
My name is Peggy. I came down with shingles on the right side of my face in October 2022.
I am still still dealing with the nerve pain. This article is great. I wished I had had it earlier.
My Dr put me on gabapentin 3x a day. This was a miracle drug for me! I didn’t have to take any pain medication when I took that. It is a nerve block drug.I hope this helps!
JonellJuly 6, 2022 at 12:48 pm
Hello! This article was a great reference tool and truly appreciated in a time of shock and disbelief of dealing with facial shingles.. Since my eye was affected and swollen shut, my husband read it over and over to me! I am about 10 weeks post diagnosis. My forehead, eye, nose and scalp still have the nerve sensation and discomfort. Any recommendations on how to address to help with nerve healing? The brown spots remaining on the are starting to fade. Any suggestions for the cosmetic appearance?
LisaJuly 4, 2022 at 8:18 am
Is it ok to take the doctor prescribed anti viral meds as well as advil? I was told it could cause kidney damage? I wanted to take L- lysine when I heard about it, but was told you can’t take it with anti viral meds because they fight each other. What do you think? I always prefer the more natural way but don’t know how to combine the prescribed antivirals with natural home remedies safely. I was also doing my usual healthy smoothies with my various seed mixture and was told that you shouldn’t eat nuts when you have shingles because it feeds the virus???
MarjorieJune 25, 2022 at 1:31 pm
Well I just want to THANK YOU so Very much for the advice about the Lemon Balm and THE SHINGLES cream they were a Gods Sent The tea was ok but the cream was the best and I mean Best for Shingles Thank You Thank You
I never in a million yas thought I would get these Shingles and let me tell you I would not wish this on my worst enemy. But I was lucky mine was on my left side in back of ear down to shoulder I was very lucky other than the Headaches I took 300mg of Gapapentin every 12 hours doctor perscribed because of nerve behind ear and advil in between as needed and the Shingles cream every evening after my shower and the rest is history Im feeling good now andits been 23 days since my digonist took away theear pain
LauraJune 9, 2022 at 4:13 pm
I’ve currently got shingles and 2 small children and a full time job so the relaxation isn’t so easy for me but I’ve ordered some lemon balm tea and taken note of some of your other suggestions above too!
KavJune 1, 2022 at 3:19 pm
I had the same experience, slight ear pain starting Wednesday but nothing too alarming so I thought just a cold coming through.. turned into a headache on Friday night and by Sunday morning saw my 1st red mark on the forehead. Went into Urgent care on Monday and 10 seconds, he said you have shingles. Started the anti-viral that day. On day 3 of the anti-viral, pain and blisters have gotten worse. Taking immune boosters and vitamin C every day. Hoping for it to get better by the time the anti-viral course completes! To top it off I’m 13 weeks pregnant so I’m fatigue is at an all time high! Any advise?