Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

Taking a cool bath or using cool, wet compresses on your blisters may help relieve the itching and pain. And, if possible, try to reduce the amount of stress in your life.

Prevention

Two vaccines may help prevent shingles — the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine and the shingles (varicella-zoster) vaccine.

Chickenpox vaccine

The varicella vaccine (Varivax) has become a routine childhood immunization to prevent chickenpox. The vaccine is also recommended for adults who've never had chickenpox. Though the vaccine doesn't guarantee you won't get chickenpox or shingles, it can reduce your chances of complications and reduce the severity of the disease.

Shingles vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of the varicella-zoster vaccine (Zostavax) for adults age 50 and older, whether they've already had shingles or not. Although the vaccine is approved for people age 50 and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn't recommending it until you reach age 60 or older, when the risk of shingles and its complications is highest.

Your doctor may recommend vaccination between ages 50 and 59 if you have a condition or circumstance that may make it more difficult to tolerate a shingles infection, such as chronic pain or if you have received or expect to receive certain medications that suppress the immune system.

As with the chickenpox vaccine, the shingles vaccine doesn't guarantee you won't get shingles. But this vaccine will likely reduce the course and severity of the disease and reduce your risk of postherpetic neuralgia within the first five years after vaccination. Protection beyond five years is uncertain.

The shingles vaccine is used only as a prevention strategy. It's not intended to treat people who currently have the disease. The vaccine contains live virus and should not be given to people who are pregnant or have weakened immune systems.