So I have come down with shingles, what to expect
June 1, 2014 1:50 PM   Subscribe

I have been diagnosed with shingles. I currently have patches of raised rash running from spine to sternum passing through my armpit. I have been on Valtrex for 2 days and the rash is still expanding a bit. The rash is a bit itchy and annoying and occasionally hurts but otherwise I have not had major pain to this point. So what I want to know is what to expect. I work in a field that has mostly desk work punctuated by some physical labor. Should I expect to have problems with work? Or am I do for an easy case as I have not had much nerve pain?
posted by The Violet Cypher to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I get recurrent shingles. If you haven't gotten pain yet an you're on Valtrex, I'd think you're probably going to weather this okay. Usually, the pain is pretty intense until the breakouts begin to crust over, and then they get itchy and yucky.

Do not scratch at the rash, because you can scar yourself. You can also get very tired while going through shingles (and I think the Valtrex can make me tired, but that might be entirely in my head).

About work: Shingles can be dangerous to people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women, so ask your doctor when you're not contagious anymore. I'm super-cautious about it, so I probably work from home way too long when I get an outbreak.
posted by xingcat at 2:00 PM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had it last summer, and although the rash was not extensive, I felt flattened. Just flattened.

Don't overdue, get lots of rest, eat really healthfully, and take vitamins.
posted by jgirl at 2:47 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

FWIW, Beta Glucan and L-Lysine are two supplements that can help fight the shingles virus. A male friend in his 60's gets shingles outbreaks and said that these help him tremendously.

See: Natural Remedies and tips to prevent, relieve, and eliminate painful shingles outbreaks
posted by mtphoto at 2:48 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sure everybody is different but just as a data point: I had shingles once and people were super-sympathetic about the pain, even the ER doctor. Every time someone told me how painful it is I'd brace myself, assuming it was going to get worse before it got better. But it never did! Fingers crossed the same is true for you :)
posted by Susan PG at 3:10 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had shingles 8 years ago, and I was also told the pain would be tremendous, but it was the tiredness that got me. I had raised bumps on my torso for 2 days before I went to the doctor and was prescribed anti-virals and the doctor wanted to give me a painkiller (I can't remember which one), but I told him I just wasn't in that much pain. I managed the small amount of pain I was in with Aleve.

I was exhausted, to the point where making it from the bed to the bathroom, then the kitchen back to bed was a big achievement. That lasted about 4 days. I was also a bit achy and warm showers helped loosen up my muscles.

I stayed home for a week, because someone I worked with had never had chicken pox and someone else had been trying to get pregnant, and I just didn't want to take the chance.
posted by lootie777 at 3:43 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

My experience with shingles was that it was like having a small nest of yellow jackets living in my shirt which got angry every couple hours.

At the time I was taking an immunomodulator and had to stop. Interestingly enough, my doctor said I shouldn't worry unless the pox crossed midline. Which it did, but the Valtrex had taken hold at that point.
posted by plinth at 4:43 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Uh, don't overdo.
posted by jgirl at 5:17 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks all for your perspectives on this. Looks like rest and symptomatic treatment are in order.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 5:39 PM on June 1, 2014

Had it last year...thought it was poison ivy/oak or (worst case scenario, god forbid) bedbugs...showed my doctor when she got to the part of the check-up of 'anything else bothering you?'...she put me on valtrex and also B6 and/or B12 (I forget) because that can help with any nerve damage. There wasn't any, that's as bad as it got, and it cleared up in a week or two. Calamine lotion also helped. YMMV.
posted by sexyrobot at 5:58 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

It hurt like bee stings. Someone told me to make a paste out of crushed aspirin and it was a blessing.

Honestly, I got the shingles on the tail end of pneumonia after my first year of grad school. I was already so tired and achy and miserable that I'm not sure if the shingles made it any worse.
posted by 26.2 at 9:20 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got shingles in graduate school and was on pain meds for about 3 weeks. My leg was affected, so pants were out of the question, not to mention standing or walking.

I did spend most of the month high on pain pills, surrounded by kittens, and writing a paper about zeugmas in Lewis Carroll. It's honestly one of my fondest memories, although I can't imagine you could reproduce it. But it did help tremendously to know that I did not have to go anyway for a while.
posted by bibliowench at 10:33 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just a heads up that you might actually be *required* by your employer to stay home from work until you're no longer contagious if there's any potential contact with pregnant women (employees or customers) in your job. My ex-husband was dismissed from his temp job when he had shingles because one of the other people in the office was pregnant.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:50 PM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I reported to the walk-in clinic and they diagnosed me--this was about a month ago--I said the pain was about a 2, 2.5 out of 10. The PA commented that I was lucky. Sounds like you may be one of the lucky ones too! Most of my pain was before the outbreak actually--until the rash popped up, for four days I thought I had a pinched nerve somewhere. That actually improved post breakout.

I know for the first two days I had little evidence that the Valtrex was working (although it wasn't getting worse), then it definitely started retreating and itching less. Calamine lotion was used copiously, and it seemed to help. (Placebo? Possible.)

I too ducked the pregnant woman I occasionally interact with at work (different floors, so not a big deal for me) and my father in law; nobody seemed too concerned about my four year old if I didn't let her play with the rash or anything.
posted by stevis23 at 9:31 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

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