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.
* * * * *
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!
DON'T WANT TO MISS A LIFE UPDATE? Join the THM Community!
Join 10,000+ members of the THM Community to stay up to date on the latest life happenings and behind-the-scenes of The Healthy Maven!
SharAugust 2, 2018 at 11:40 pm
Hi. I also get them and mine go on my cornea as well as the spots you stated. I used everything you did but I also ate raw garlic daily, rubbed raw garlic on the shingles and rubbed lemongrass oil mixed with coconut oil & manuka honey on them. I put colloidal silver under my tongue and I put two drops in each eye for two days. My shingles went away in 3 days without an antiviral. I get them often due to stress. As soon as I feel any tingle I rub lemongrass oil on the area. My doctor said to take 2400 mg of monolaurin daily for six months. It kills the virus by breaking down the fatty layer around the virus then it kills the virus. Monolauren is From coconuts. ? feel better
MaryDecember 2, 2018 at 2:18 am
These sound like great tips! I had shingles without a rash in October (3rd time after catching chickenpox as an adult 13 years ago. Still not feeling well and very unmotivated). I believe it was systemic as my entire internal organs felt like they were being kicked and punched and stabbed, that was one occasion when I definitely felt close to death. I don’t want a repeat performance so will hunt around for some Monolaurin.
Judith L FothergillAugust 23, 2020 at 7:39 am
Mary, just read your post on Shingles. Your the only one with it in the gut like mine. dr luckily caught mine when 4 pimples appeared at my waist night before app. Virals working as well as pain meds but not night and morning How long did yours last?
Lisa SmithJanuary 26, 2019 at 2:08 pm
It is soooo nice to see other younger women having gone through this. I thought this only happened to older people. I am currently suffering through shingles in and around my eye. Started out with just pain in my eye and the ER doc and ophthalmologist couldn’t figure out what was wrong because there were no other symptoms for a week! The eye doc scraped my eye thinking I had a “foreign body” in it. Turned out to be nothing. Probably one of the most painful things I’ve experienced. Then the rash developed a couple days ago on my forehead, eye, and lip and I actually diagnosed myself at that point. My eye is swollen and I feel like the hunchback of Notre Dame, hideously ugly. Just got the Valtrex yesterday and bought lysine as well. Been using neuropathy essential oils and homeopathic mixture topically and colloidal silver ointment. I’ve never had a cold sore in my life, but this seriously sucks. Just drinking a lot of herbal tea and coconut water and popping the ibuprofen. Nerve pain is the worst. Does anyone know how long these blisters last??? Or the eye inflammation??? I honestly don’t want to go back to work looking like this. ???
Davida @ The Healthy MavenJanuary 26, 2019 at 5:45 pm
Hi Love! I’m so sorry you’re going through this! Blisters were pretty obvious for a week but then subsided. The pain takes a bit longer. Biggest piece of advice: RELAX. As much as possible. allow your body to totally disconnect from the world and sleep a ton. Once I started to get my energy back I went to acupuncture and that helped a ton with pain. Thinking of you <3
Lisa SmithJanuary 27, 2019 at 8:31 am
Thanks so much for replying! I have noticed anytime my anxiety level goes up, I feel it in my face. Tingling and pain. Relaxing is good advice and I’m working on it ?. I’ve slept more these past few days than I have in a loooong time. I think the pain really takes a lot out of you. Hopefully I can get back on my feet and back to work soon. I might try the acupuncture. I never have before. The needles are a little scary to me. Do they put them in the painful areas? That seems like it would cause more pain to me.
JanisJanuary 4, 2020 at 10:56 pm
At any age it is horrible to have to deal with shingles….mine showed up Nov 1…went to urgent care a week later…after reading about the symptoms. Valcyclovir for a week, Just like you described, the tingle in the eyebrow, blisters,all hairs on the right side of my head, top down. Blisters lasted about a week, cold cloths and ice packs, the flexible kind. I would just sit with it on my head. Cut my hair short to make it easier to handle. that helped… Hurt to bend over to feed the cat or pick up anything. Wind, sneezing..any movement hurt so bad. Ate I buprofen like candy, and I dont like to do that, but had to. Prescription pain meds make me ill. Seeing me in the mirror in the morning was a fright..really. I felt sorry for anyone who would see me. Mid Dec., had to get another round of Valcy…better. I am getting the Lemon Balm tea and cream…L Lysine, too. If I need a nap, I take it.
SandiMay 25, 2020 at 4:13 pm
Hi.Janis, how are you doing now!? I, too, have had shingles on the top right side of my head/scalp. Mine started April 9th, 2020. I didnt have a clue what was wrong with me and it was 2 weeks before I figured out it might be shingles by googling symptoms. I went to a dermatologist and they agreed it was most likely shingles based on my symptoms, even though any rash or bumps i may have had were gone by then. I still have headaches, head pain, fatigue daily and cant take ibuprofen so my drug of chouce has been tylenol. They never gave me any antiviral meds. Tgey said they wouldnt be effective because usually you need to start taking them within 2-3 days of the onset. Im trying to watch what I eat and am taking what supplements I can to tryto get better. Not many people Ive heard of have had shingleson their head. I hope you are completely well by now!
Lisa PietrocarloOctober 4, 2020 at 12:10 pm
Hello, how are you recovering?
Diagnosed in June
Now have a recurrence in the same eye in October
So sad and frustrated
Erin B.June 22, 2018 at 10:42 pm
I love this post because it’s pretty much exactly what i am going through! I thought I had ear infection, but I didn’t. They treated me for allergies, which I’ve never hadn’t. I went with it. But the pain I need my head kept getting worse, and my eye turned pink. I thought it must be sinus infection, but I didn’t have any cold symptoms. Went in again and they thought I had an atypical sinus infection and they put me on antibiotics and eyedrops. That night I noticed a tingling sensation on my eyebrow. It kept spreading across my eyebrow and I noticed a large red bump where the tingling had started. Then two blisters appeared on the side of my nose. I knew I needed to go back in. What do you know?! I had shingles … and at age 40! I was too young, they said, but I had it. They put me on antiviral meds 5 times per day, prednisone for 5 days since it was around my eye, and ibuprofen for the pain. I also had to go see an ophthalmologist to make sure my eye wasn’t affected. A friend also gave me silver gel to apply to the rash and blisters to help them heal faster (24ppm). I will say it totally relieved the burning pain I had with it and I have no scarring whatsoever. So I would recommend that, too. I’m 13 days into this journey and I’m starting to feel much better. I still feel fatigue and muscle pain, so I’m continuing to take it easy. I, too, believe stress brought this on, so Ireally agree with and emphasize your final point: stress can manifest itself in not good ways in your body. Do your best to keep it at bay!
Joe AgnewJune 20, 2018 at 6:50 am
A cup of coffee will greatly relieve Shingles pain. Try it, even if you’re up in the middle of the night.
MikeAugust 26, 2020 at 8:22 pm
Interesting. I just read that drinking coffee was a no-no. Guess it varies from person to person.
JojoJune 6, 2018 at 4:46 am
Thank you for sharing your story. This is really killing me few months back and sometime I can still feel the pain hunting. Do you have new pumps after your recovery? Seem like mine have new pump appears.
MelissaJune 1, 2018 at 6:57 pm
I’m two weeks post-diagnosis, and feeling zonked still. I’m only 35 and got on the anti-virals early, plus took Lauricidin, sat under a homemade infra-red lamp, and put on Aztec Healing Clay poultices, plus downed plenty of L-Lysine, The CBD and THC was also involved. I’m a health-supportive private chef, and only took one day off work, plus travelled and cooked a few 12-14 hour days for a Culinary Yoga Retreat over Memorial Day weekend. I’m also in school for Nutritional Consulting, and had to ask for a few extensions. The brain fog is intense!
Although my rash (the size of a dime on my left hand) never opened up and the itching/burning there wasn’t too terrible, the fatigue and overall body aches have been the most challenging. I’m at the point where I WANT to want to go do fun stuff, but all I can really do is the bare minimum. I moved just 3 weeks ago, and I have no doubt that stress did me in.
I also have Celiac, MTHFR, and Fibromyalgia, which seem to just make everything a little more challenging.
From all the insane internet-ing I’ve been doing, it seems like more younger people get shingles than is assumed and/or discussed. So happy to see a piece from someone I can really identify with, instead of just feeling like I’m some sort of anomaly.
LisaJanuary 10, 2020 at 10:29 pm
Hi Melissa, do you feel the infra red lamp helped shingles rash & pain at all? I laid under mine for 10 mins but I can’t find any info to support if it would help the rash, the itch, the pain etc?
RobynMay 23, 2018 at 3:14 am
Thank you for sharing your story.
I was just diagnosed with shingles today so I needed to read this.
I have trigeminal neuralgia (currently in remission). I cringed when I read where your shingles originated. Trigminal pain is as bad as it gets. I hope you never have to deal with it again.
DNNMarch 16, 2018 at 7:54 am
I just recently learned about the amazing benefits of turmeric. So I looked on the internet not long ago to see how much a few pounds of turmeric would be and let me tell you… That is one expensive spice. But it’s certainly worth spending the money on because of the amazing health benefits. 🙂
Janice SnowMarch 11, 2018 at 4:33 am
Hey, I love the way you write the article and amazing collection of photography and here I have tried some food photography
Kris KelbrantsMarch 9, 2018 at 7:13 pm
This article so well done, had no idea but for some reason was intrigued to read this. LOVE your content!!!!
Davida @ The Healthy MavenMarch 13, 2018 at 7:53 pm
Nicole @ Laughing My Abs OffMarch 7, 2018 at 8:19 pm
You’re such a trooper! Thank you for sharing these. I think these tips are so helpful no matter what temporary illness someone is dealing with; it’s all about resting and treating your body the way it really wants and needs to be treated. And I so love and appreciate your positivity through this whole thing; it can’t have been easy to joke around and laugh about having shingles, but you somehow did it. Hope you reach 100% shingle-free status ASAP!
Davida @ The Healthy MavenMarch 13, 2018 at 7:53 pm
It’s so true! No matter what the struggle is, self-compassion and care is the ultimate healing! Thanks so much for the support babes <3
Phoebe LapineMarch 7, 2018 at 10:23 am
oh girl. I can’t believe this expressed itself right after I talked to you. that ear! guess it wasn’t allergies…loved this post and all you shared. I had shingles in college on my BUTT, which I suppose is preferable to your face, but it wasn’t fun. #alltheshingleladies.
Davida @ The Healthy MavenMarch 13, 2018 at 7:57 pm
Dude I literally woke up the next day with shingles! SO CRAZY!!!! Life is weird…Shingles on da butt sounds pretty awful too. Though weirdly it’s nice to know I’m not alone in this pain. #ALLTHESHINGLELADIES
Emma @ Health GrinderMarch 5, 2018 at 9:31 pm
Great tips! Having a dad who’s gotten shingles twice (not sure why, he does stress a lot though), I can tell you that is isn’t a picnic. From what I’ve seen, the earlier the better. If you can start medication early, like when you only have one or two blisters that cuts down the time a whole lot. I think the medication the docs gave dad was valtrex or something like that.
Davida @ The Healthy MavenMarch 13, 2018 at 7:58 pm
Yup – I did a course of Valtrex too. Super helpful! Very grateful for western medicine and also the power of alternative medicine to support it!
ASeptember 15, 2019 at 7:48 am
Thanks so much for this post! I thought I was going crazy ! My doctors could not understand why I was in so much pain, I could not move my neck and my ear had swollen with terrible pain. I was originally diagnosed with a cyst ? I went back to see a different doctor a few days later as I was not convinced and it took two more doctors for one of them to finally say shingles. Unfortunately for me this was like 10 days later so the antivirals I have been given are not likely to work as well. I am hoping in a few more weeks it will clear , it’s in my head and top of neck so the pains I am getting through my head are horrendous. Like everyone else I never thought at 26 I would end up with shingles!
Again, thanks for the post and hope everyone here is feeling better soon! X
PamelaSeptember 20, 2019 at 2:48 pm
Shingles. The most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. I’ve had 3 children, natural child birth with no medication. The shingles pain far outweighs the pain of child birth!! I have a severe case that manifested from my right sternum, around my side and traveling to my spine. I’m 7 weeks in. I still experience pain topical pain above front rib cage and deep in the muscle in my back. I will be following your advice. Especially the “relax” advice. That’s something I have trouble doing is relaxing. I’m so use to doing what I want to do. Now it’s impossible with causing myself terrible pain. I have neurontin for pain. I can usually brush off illness and pain and work through it. The shingles won. It whipped me down. I’m so ready to be well again. I wonder if I will ever be me again.
AshleyApril 21, 2020 at 5:20 pm
Hi, Pamela, my shingles experience is a lot like yours. I’m now 4 weeks in. Just was wondering about how long yours lasted? I don’t know how much more I can take!
Thanks in advance for the help!
SusanJune 30, 2020 at 12:34 pm
Tell your dad to get the shingles vaccine. If cost is an issue there is an online form you can take to your doctor. Shingles can come back again. Everyone get your vacinnatij. It is called Shingrix.
Kim BurrNovember 24, 2018 at 5:43 am
I was just diagnoised with shingles today. And honestly I didnt have much pain just flu like symptoms in the begining. But Ive been on the pills for 5 days now and my skin is itchy af and burns. I havent wanted to do to much for awhile now. Im only 32 going to be 33 on Sunday. I really dont know what to expect. Im just starting to feel the headaches body aches bone aches and random as out of controll burning and itching. Ive had intense stomache issues Ive been trying to explain to doctors for years now. So I guess this is what it was all along. I need to sleep but I cant its frusturating. Im still just trying to adjust to having shingles now and it really scares me cause you can die from it. So I need to start taking better care of myself. And find a way to cope when I seen that your a younger adult with shingles I didnt feel so alone. So thank you for that support today I needed it.
ameliaNovember 26, 2018 at 2:09 pm
I have shingles- i know i do since beginning nov – and sick for 2 weeks b4 that- dr doesnt believe me yet (i feel like they are humoring me! ) cause theres only 3 spots on each end of the nerve- my back/ my right thigh. right thigh is numb – pain was deep in thigh…. they gave me prednesone pack 3 days after i went in and (didnt acknowledge the small rash) – isnt that a steroid? wonder if thats gonna make this last longer- was told to late to try antivirals now- when i went back last week…. ugh feel so under the weather still
RoseNovember 29, 2018 at 12:41 am
Wow! I was also recently diagnosed with Shingles and has it been an experience that I will never forget. I have had my shares of urgent care visits, Dr on calls, and pain! I am also in my thirties and was terrified to think this was even a possibility. I have had my few breakdowns and just trying to keep it together. I have a pretty intense case of the shingles on my face and it created a swollen cheek with redness, blisters and even reached all the way to my eye. I have researched everything I could about healing and hoping to find something successful for myself. I’m terrified to leave my house but it’s difficult when I have class, a very active child and eventually back to work. Anyway I’m hoping for a smooth recovery and would love any advice… I’m trying to keep my spirits up. So sorry for anyone who has to go through this… not fun what so ever : ( I hope everyone hangs in there, and take good care of yourselves!
Desiree SJuly 13, 2020 at 1:41 pm
Thanks for posting & sharing!!
I‘m currently heading into week 2 with the Shingles Virus. It took me by surprise because I don’t really ever get sick & really thought a bug bit my face. But the strange pain on my face brought me to the doctor. I was put on anti-virals within the 72 hours—which I guess is key in reducing the symptoms, duration & pain. I am on 7 days of Valtrex (3 xs a day) & it helped somewhat, but I do suggest also boosting your immune system to support the healing process. I noticed that I have very low energy because my body is working harder right to help me heal. I also contacted my holistic doctor & nutritionist friends who said to rest, rest, rest AND to also increase my Vitamin C intake, eat raw garlic, take a Chaga Mushrooms Supplement, add St. John’s Wort, 10,000 ius of Vitamin D, NAC, Zinc, Selenium & Neem tablets. I was also told to take Oregano oil great & to make sure I take a good probiotic for my gut. I also use a CBD salve for my face, mixed w/ an anti-viral essential oil & I ingest CBD oil for the pain. Entering week 2, my pain is down big time, like to a 1 or 2 & I just feel run down at the moment. I know it’s a lot of stuff to take, but it all seems to be working for me. Fingers crossed no blisters & I am hoping the pain goes away completely soon. 🙏🏽