There is no cure for shingles, but the condition can be treated with antiviral medicine which may help with the symptoms and help prevent complications such as ongoing pain (post-herpetic neuralgia). Antiviral medicine is most effective if you start it within 3 days of the rash appearing. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about whether antivirals are right for you.
Over-the counter medicines, such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, can be used for pain relief. If over-the-counter medicines are not controlling your pain, your doctor may prescribe other medicines.
To help relieve itchiness from the rash, try using cold, wet compresses. You can also try products such as calamine lotion, antihistamines, or aluminium acetate lotions, which are available from your local pharmacy.
What else can I do if I have shingles?
If you have shingles there are several things you can do to help manage the condition. They include the following:
- Try to keep the rash as dry and as clean as possible.
- Try not to scratch the rash. Scratching may cause infection and scarring of the blisters.
- After a bath or shower, gently pat yourself dry with a clean towel. Do not rub or use the towel to scratch yourself and do not share towels.
- Wear loose cotton clothes around the parts of the body that are affected.
- If you do need to cover the blisters to prevent contamination, then use a non-stick dressing. Do not use antibiotic creams or sticking plasters on the blisters since they may slow down the healing process.
- Cool compresses, baths or ice packs may help with the discomfort. Do not apply ice packs directly to the skin. Wrap the ice pack in a light towel and place it gently over the dressing. Wash the towel in hot water after use.
- If the blisters are open, applying creams or gels is not recommended because they might increase the risk of a secondary bacterial infection.
- Avoid contact with people who may be more at risk, such as pregnant women who are not immune to chickenpox, people who have a weak immune system and babies less than 1 month old.
- Do not share towels, play contact sports, or go swimming.
A vaccination called Zostavax is recommended for everyone over 60. It is given free of charge in Australia to people aged 70-79. Being vaccinated will not guarantee that you will not get shingles, but it will reduce your chance of developing the condition. Zostavax is not the same as the vaccine used to protect against chickenpox. Read more about the chickenpox vaccine here.
Vaccination is your best protection against shingles. This table explains how the vaccine is given, who should get it, and whether it is on the National Immunisation Program Schedule. Some diseases can be prevented with different vaccines, so talk to your doctor about which one is appropriate for you.
|What age is it recommended?||Over 60.|
|How many doses are required?||One|
|How is it administered?||Injection|
|Is it free?||
Free for adults aged 70 years to 79 years.
For everyone else, there is a cost for this vaccine.
Find out more on the Department of Health website and the National Immunisation Program Schedule, and ask your doctor if you are eligible for additional free vaccines based on your situation or location.
|Common side effects||The vaccine is very safe. Side effects may include pain, redness, swelling or itching where the needle went in, headache or tiredness.|
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your shingles, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: April 2019