Holy Cowbell, My Tingles Are Actually Shingles! Treatment and Facts…

Surpise! A Wednesday post from me with a health update. 🙂

I had another round of diagnostics this week and the doc is about 75% sure he’s found the secret to this crazy head pain.

The new and improved diagnosis is freaking SHINGLES!

It’s absolutely the last thing I would have expected but that tell-tale rash is hiding back there under my hairline in the last place I’d have thought to look for it. (You could’ve knocked me over with a feather duster in his office on Monday when he told me.)

Apparently, I need to be happy they caught it early and quit my moaning. The earlier you start the anti-viral, the less secondary crapola you suffer from.

I always thought shingles was an “over-65” disease but apparently you can get it when you’re under 50, even though it’s more rare. The fact that my varicella (chicken pox) antibodies were low, and my physical stress was high, left me wide open for an attack of the dreaded shingles. (That word even sounds creepy.)

Here’s the comment I left at Leanne Shirtliffe’s blog yesterday:

11: Days that I’ve had this wretched headache
8: Hours spent in the E.R.
2: CAT scans on my brain
1: Case of shingles*

*Who in the flaming cowbell gets shingles at 43?! I’m just sayin…

Of course I had to do some research…Here’s what I found out:

  • Shingles (also called herpes zoster) affects approx 20% of Americans (1 million) each year.
  • At least 1 in 10 people who had chicken pox as children will get shingles as adults.
  • Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, or the chickenpox virus.
  • The virus lies dormant in the body near the spinal cord and the nerve ganglia until something, usually severe stress or a weakened immune system, reactivates it. Once reactivated, the virus travels along the nerve paths, destroying them as it goes, to the skin where it erupts into a rash.

Nice, huh?

Apparently, it’s common for people to get excruciating, stabbing pain at the site of the affected area. (In my case, my head.) The doc said he’ll see people get all kinds of scans that turn out normal and then all of sudden the rash shows up and everyone goes, “Oooooh. That’s what’s going on.”

My little rash is slated to turn into extremely painful blisters in a few days, which may be accompanied by numbness, depression, tingling, shooting pains, fever, and headache. Sometime in the next month, it will all be over.

Here’s what I can do to speed things up:

  • Take the anti-viral meds he gave me – when taken at the onset, it shortens the duration.
  • Load up on Vitamins A, B12, C, D, and E.
  • Minerals zinc, calcium and magnesium are also helpful.
  • Take amino acid L-Lysine, which may inhibit the replication of the shingles virus (Lysine can be found in beef, pork, eggs and tofu). Also Essential Fatty Acids, Garlic and Coenzyme Q10.
  • Last of all, foods like brewer’s yeast, brown rice, garlic, raw fruits and vegetables, and whole grains are primo when fighting shingles. Chocolate, nuts, and seeds are not good right now, since they contain arginine which counteracts the beneficial effects of lysine on shingles.

A rash and NO chocolate???! Over Halloween week? Mother of God.

Y’all better chomp some extra candy for me. I’ll be dreaming about the two mini Baby Ruth’s I ate before I did all this research.

What else can I do? (I found five other things!)

    Stress reduces the immune system’s ability to fight off infections such as shingles. O-kay…note to self: learn to relax and avoid stressful situations.
    I’ve never been good at this, but I’ll try. I’m supposed to “gently clean the blisters while bathing, but otherwise avoid touching or scratching them.”
    If shingles are present on the face or near the eyes, see an ophthalmologist immediately since ophthalmic herpes zoster can cause blindness. Say WHAT??!
    Ointments such as silvadene, Aspercreme, and capsaicin can help to reduce the pain of shingles. Cold packs applied over cotton may also be useful. *making list*
    Wear clothing that won’t rub against the infected skin. Unless I plan to take up turtlenecks or scarves, this won’t be an issue. It’s under my hair along my neck and scalp.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve found so far. To all of you who have been worrying for me, I appreciate it. I haven’t decided yet whether I prefer the “shingles” diagnosis to “strained muscles in the head.” Time will tell.

Do you have any experience with shingles? Cough up the deets…enquiring minds REALLY want to know these things here at More Cowbell!


ANNOUNCEMENT: Catie Rhodes will be here tomorrow!! She’s giving us an early Halloween spooky story and talking about her new book, Tales From the Mist. I can’t wait! Be sure to swing on by and show her some love.

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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104 Responses to Holy Cowbell, My Tingles Are Actually Shingles! Treatment and Facts…

  1. Clare Scott says:

    A tip which helped my husband immensely when he had shingles a couple of years back (in his 50’s) was to dab straight (apple) cider vinegar onto the rash. It took away a lot of the sting and pain, and really helped him to heal faster. It’s cheap, easy, non-invasive and homeopathic, and you can apply it as often as you want. Try it, it might help you too. Good luck – it’s a rotten, nasty, painful diagnosis to have. Yuk! But w-a-y better than some you might have ended up with. Hang in there!


  2. LauraDrake says:

    Yikes, Jenny – so glad they found what it was, and so glad it’s something that, though painful, will go away!

    I have news that will make you feel much better.

    My MIL had shingles — on her CROTCH! Yes, thighs, outside the Va-jay-jay, INSIDE the VJJ!!!!
    I’m squirming in my chair, just typing that!

    See? Told you you’d feel better!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I really needed that laugh this morning, even knowing I shouldn’t laugh. You’re poor mother-in-law!! OMG…blisters in the Vajayjay…

      I feel much better now.


  3. zkullis says:

    Well crap on a stick, that sucks Jenny. We got your back. You should do a home remedy contest post. (home remedies are almost always outrageous)

    Laura. If that news isn’t enough to make ANYBODY feel better, I don’t what what would do it.

    I will DIE f I ever get shingles on my VJJ… Just sayin’



  4. K.B. Owen says:

    Holy Herpes, Batman! I had no idea that shingles could cause such horrible headaches. And of course, have it be ninja-sneaky on you, hiding in your hairline! You poor gal. I think the cosmos is trying to tell you to dial back the stress.

    Hope it goes away, FAST!

    Big hug,


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Yes, apparently people describe it as “the worst whatever of their lives.” If it’s on their tummies, they think they have appendicities, over their breast, they think they’re having a heart attack.” That’s good times, no?


  5. Hubby got Shingles in Med School when he was in his 20s.

    Stress related auto-immune stuff! And he ad the headaches, too! I didn’t know all your symptoms! Omigosh! Maybe do as Kathy says and dial back the stress.

    For real, lots of people do NanoWrimo in November.

    Maybe a good time to scale back.

    Seriously, people don’t read blogs in November. Or maybe just mine.


  6. Marie Trout says:

    Sending love and hugs to you….


  7. It’s definitely not connected to age. I had shingles in my last year of high school because of stress. (I also had the chicken pox three times as a kid because my body decided not to build up the immunity to it that normal people do – go figure.) Get a cream. Pronto. It makes a difference (and you may have to try more than one kind if the first one you try doesn’t give you the relief you expected). Mine were on my back and one shoulder and the rubbing of my bra strap was agony.

    Did the doctor say anything about making sure Baby Girl doesn’t come into contact with your rash if she hasn’t had the chicken pox?


    • K.B. Owen says:

      Marcy, I think Baby Girl has probably had her chicken pox vaccine by this age (trying to remember – think it’s 15months old when kids can have it). By the way, there’s a shingles vaccine, too, for us older folks. 😉


    • K.B. Owen says:

      P.S. – I also meant to say that I’m so sorry you had to go through shingles in high school, Marcy! Gack – and chicken pox THREE times! Holy Crap!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      We did talk about Baby Girl and I’m pretty sure she’ll be fine. I have to double-check but I think she’s already had the vaccine. Plus, where I have it isn’t so easily communicable.

      And I’m with Kathy – I can’t believe you had to go through all that!!


  8. Lara McGill says:

    The good news is that some of your stress is reduced just by having a diagnosis and a path to follow. Woo hoo!

    Also, you can keep that Halloween candy stashed and use it for writing rewards after you get better. That’s what my friend said to do during Nano – I never would have thought of it on my own.


  9. Catie Rhodes says:

    Ugh. Just ugh. I am so sorry to hear you are going through this. I was so glad to see that there is a treatment. I hope you start feeling better soon.


  10. I’ve been worried about you and your headache. I’m sure it’s some comfort to you to know what it is and that it’s curable.

    I’ve known people who had it (including my step-daughter) and understand it is NOT pleasant. Cyber Chicken Soup on its way.

    Suddenly, the umpty-ump dollar price tag for a shingles vaccine seems like a wiser investment than the cowboy boots I’m coveting.

    I’m sure you have ALL of the suggested treatments lined up. Hopefully, including that kick-back and relax thing. You know your Cowbell Fan-addicts will be here when you get back.

    Now, shoo. I don’t want to hear from you again until you’re well.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh, Gloria, if the vaccine is available to you, I’d take it. Of course, I’m saying that with a headache and a wicked rash on my head.

      We’re lining up the treatments and I’m just going to run the posts I have in the hopper. I promise not to write much new stuff…unless is just screams to be written – then I must. (I know you understand.) 🙂


  11. gingercalem says:

    My goodness! What a hassle, a painful, worrisome one! My SIL got shingles right after having her first baby in her 30’s. It was stress. So, let’s see what the good news is. You will not be over-indulging on choc over Halloween. I realize this might appear as a negative but I view it as a positive. And most importantly, you have a very valid, absolute rock-solid excuse to take a month off of anything that will cause you stress. Make yourself do this! Do the very minimum of life’s ‘chores’ and then try to be mellow. You caught it early so get all that treatment going. Maybe you won’t even get the painful, itchy blisters.

    I hope you truly don’t have a bad case. I’ll be thinking of you. Hang in there!


  12. amyshojai says:

    Oh crap! Glad you got the diagnosis but shingles sucks. May it be MILD and quick.


  13. hmcmullin says:

    Oh, ouch, itch! Having had a mild case, I know shingles are not fun (to put it mildly!!). Do make sure you go to an opthamologist. My hubby got shingles on his forehead and they moved into one eye as well before he was diagnosed. Fortunately, there was no permanent damage but that was scary. I’ll be thinking of you. Keep us posted – it’ll take your mind off the itchies.


  14. I’ve been concerned about you! So glad you gave us this update.

    My hubby has shingles that come back all over his back, his arms. What works for him (it never gets to the blistering stage, and he’s never had to go on antivirals) is a thick gel called Aquaphor, recommended by his doctor. There is a very good generic version of it that costs less, but it isn’t plain petroleum jelly. You might ask your doc about that.

    And yes, Lysine works WONDERS. It also helps with cold sores in the mouth (another herpes related virus).

    I’m so sorry you’ve got this. The only upside is it’s not as horrible as it could be. Hugs honey!


  15. susielindau says:

    I am so sorry to hear this! I have heard they are incredibly painful. I plan to get the vaccination…I hope you feel better soon!


  16. Holy cats! That does not sound like fun. Good thing they caught it early, I dread to think what you’d have to do if they caught it later. Sheesh.

    Here’s hoping it goes away quick!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Yep, I dread to think of a delay too. I’m hoping to not get the blisters and just avoid that whole process. We’ll see. I’ve got scads of home remedies now – I just put a picture up on Facebook. It’s a TON of stuff.


  17. Kathy Walker says:

    Relax and avoid stressful situations? Doesn’t sound like the Jen I know so please try and do this—you have had so many things medically this year maybe you need to be more stress free. I worry about you. Take care–I’m thinking about you.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’m actually less stressed than I’ve ever been in my life. I promise. But I’ve got a toddler in preschool and (apparently) not enough varicella antibodies. 😦


  18. Catherine Johnson says:

    Oh my goodness, I hope you can rest a bit easier now. All you have to do is wear light clothing in the cold weather and no chocolate on Halloween easy peasy. Yikes! You’ll get hyperthermia next. Who would have thought it would be shingles. I would have thought a bad headache lasting days was a migraine. Thank goodness it’s been diagnosed, take care and stock up on Halloween candy for afterwards.


  19. drimhof says:

    Holy Cowbell! I had shingles in my left facial nerve when I was 16! They took me to the Denver Children’s hospital and a bunch of hungry interns stared at my neck and face. How embarrasing. The not scratching thing is a must. I have a scar on my jaw because I didn’t leave it alone.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I didn’t know you had shingles too. Dang girl, that was NOT your year!! And I never knew about this scar of yours…you’ll have to show me next time I see you. I don’t want to itch, just because I don’t want to spread it. I don’t really care if I get a scar under my hair.


  20. The hubs had shingles as a young adult, so no, not just old people. 😦 So very sorry! At least you have more modern understanding. I don’t think there was much they knew way back when. Big, but gentle hugs!!!!


  21. Lena Corazon says:

    Ack! This is crazytimes, Jenny, but I am SO glad that (1) the doctor diagnosed what was wrong and (2) that it’s not something more serious (although some of those untreated symptoms look pretty scary). Take care of yourself, and get some downtime! We’ll all be sending warm happy fuzzy thoughts that you get better quick. ❤


  22. pamelavmason says:

    Oh Sweetie… I’ve HAD this!! But on my waist and abdomen — seems like the rash likes to appear anywhere there’s some piece of clothing or something to further aggravate the pain.
    And it IS painful!
    Hugs. And Apple Cider Vinegar … I drink that stuff now– it’s horrible, but isn’t everything that’s good for you?


  23. Ryan King says:

    Oh no! My wife recently got a case of Shingles too and she’s only 35. It’s crazy! Hers happened across her back and around her side. She still hurts. I can’t imagine having it on your head, especially the way she talks about it. Sounds like you’ve got the 411 on Shingles though. I’m sorry that you were the one who got blessed with it. I hope it goes away quick.



    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Ryan…I’m accepting all hugs. The good part is, I have nice drugs if I want them. The bad part is I hate to take drugs. But I’m sooo tired of my head hurting like a demon. I keep reminding myself that this too shall pass….

      p.s. I’m sorry your wife is still hurting and so happy no one else in your household got it.


  24. tomwisk says:

    I’m sorry. “At last somebody has that thing those annoying commercials are talking about.” Again I’m sorry and happy healing.


  25. You’re not alone on the shingles before 50 front. My husband got a case of it ON HIS FACE at just 24 yrs old. He had to be very careful with the part right next to his eye, or he could have gone blind. Which would have been a shame since he has better than perfect eye sight. On the upside, my daughter didn’t have to get the Chicken Pox vaccine because of it (she caught it from Daddy).


  26. I completely sympathize with you. I had Shingles when i was 25!! TWENTY-FIVE!!! The doctor’s couldn’t believe it. (I also had mono when I was 6. No lie. I was in kindergarten and I had mono. I’m some kind of freak I guess.)

    My rash was on my back and it hurt like hell. I could not stand to even have clothing touch the ugly red spot. I had to lay on my stomach alot. Fortunately the medicine I took made me better pretty quickly, but ugh, it was some nasty shit.

    I hope you’re feeling better soon. Bright side – you can’t get it again.

    Hang in there.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


  27. Karen McFarland says:

    Holy Cowbell is right!!!!

    Jenny, I feel your pain. It is the Herpes virus that causes my chronic fatigue. So when I am under extreme stress, here comes the virus and with it the many different lovely symptoms. I cannot give it to anybody. It just lives in my lymph, ready to strike whenever my immune system drops like a pancake. Our dear son Grant had the shingles at age 24 and shortly thereafter lost all of his hair and now has allopecia. No joke.

    So take heed to all the medical advice my dear friend. This is NOT fun or funny! And I hear that shingles in the head is very painful. Do watch your eyesight.

    Glad you finally found out what was the cause of your headache. I am so sorry that you’re having to suffer through all this. Stress is a precursor to so many illnesses. Hope your headache has subsided and that you are on the way to recovery!

    I’m sending you cyber hugs!!!!



  28. Amber West says:

    Apple Cider Vinegar should help, taking it internally and applying it – just be aware that if you put it on the rash without diluting, or pairing it with a carrier like coconut oil, it can sting. (Nothing wrong with that – just a heads up)

    Some people add cayenne and colloidal silver to the mix as they have viral-killing properties.

    I’ve also heard tea tree oil (eucalyptus) is great for relieving the pain of the blisters. (I’ve used it for other things and had good results)

    Along with my vast knowledge of showtunes, I’m filled with natural remedies. 😉


    • Amber West says:

      PS – Sorry about the diagnosis, but yay for finding out the cause of your pain. As someone who suffered with pain for a long time with docs unable to shed much light on any of it, I know there is a relief that comes with knowing. Now, rest and get better. 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Fabulous to know! And it just so happens, Hubby also bought me coconut oil. How much cayenne are we talking about? And where the hell do you buy “colloidal silver??”

      Geesh – I didn’t know about half of this stuff until I got shingles.


  29. Wow, Jenny. So sorry you’re dealing with this! Wishing you painless, itch-free skin soon. *HUGS*


  30. Julie Glover says:

    I’ve had a couple of friends around our age who have had shingles. You’ll be fine! 🙂 Sending happy thoughts your way, though. It is incredibly inconvenient and uncomfortable, from what I hear. I’ll devour a little extra chocolate in your honor (which means stealing even more Halloween candy from my kids).


  31. amyskennedy says:

    Oh my. That sucks, but at least you have a diagnosis. And look at you with all the research, you’ll probably be done with this in record time. And, yes, I promise to eat extra chocolate.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I always want to know what I’m dealing with…can you tell? LOL. My head itches like CRAZY right now, but I’m comforted to know you’ll be eating my chocolate. 🙂


  32. Holy lord lifting…my poor friend. The suffering…that is terrible! I have only known one other person to get shingles and know her through a 3rd party so the only thing I know about it, is that it’s very painful. Sniff…sounds like you already know that part though. DANG!

    Well, you got treatment, drugs and great tips to try and mitigate this as much as possible. Know that we are thinking about you and sending you healing vibrations!!!

    Here’s to a quick and speedy full recovery!


  33. I’ll read the comments in a minute, but I wanted to say this before I forget. I would NOT use capsaicin. Not that I needed anything but experience to know this, but an article at about.com says, ‘Capsaicin is actually an irritant to humans, producing a burning sensation in any tissue it touches.’ Just the thought of putting that on a rash makes me cringe. I used it on my shoulder and back, thinking it might help a pinched nerve a few years ago…it burned like a bit**, and turned my skin beet red. Couldn’t wash it off either, and it hurt for hours.

    One of my favorite websites…for a long time (I’m thinking 6-8 years now) is Earthclinic.com. It’s chock full of information from people who have tried different things. The administrators let them put what works, as well as what doesn’t (because not everything works the same for one person as it does for another), so that impressed me.

    Anyway, this is the link for shingles…http://earthclinic.com/CURES/shingles.html . The only ‘cure’ that seems to have a number of positive testimonies is apple cider vinegar. I’ve been using that stuff for years (the same number of years since I found this site), and if you choose to try it, TRUST ME when I say…organic (Braggs) is a whole lot easier to get down than than Heinze. Of course I don’t like sour anything, so that might be why. Also, if you try it, drink anything you put it in with a straw placed as far back in your mouth as you can. It can damage tooth enamel.

    That stuff said…aww, Jenny! Shingles sucks! My mom had it, back before there was any treatment for it. I know it made her miserable for months. I hope you caught it early enough to get rid of it soon. And no chocolate? OMG! How will you deal with PMS?


  34. Ack, shingles! That sucks. But I’m glad to hear the cause of those nasty headaches was diagnosed. Hopefully creams and other treatments help fast.


  35. Jane Sadek says:

    I have no idea how I missed this the day it came out, but I am so sorry you have shingles. Please be careful. My mom had shingles on her head like that ( but she was older than you at the time) and somehow her nervous system reacted. We discovered her shingles when she was taken to emergency after a stroke!!!! Do absolutely EVERYTHING the doctor tells you to – we need our Cowbell Girl!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’ve already been to the ER for crazy brain scans – it turns out this 2 week headache is just the shingles talking. I swear, I’m resting and taking anti-virals, and ingesting every nasty holistic remedy I can find. 🙂


  36. Aack, Jenny – shingles! But so glad you know what it is, and so glad it isn’t a brain tumor! (Everyone else was thinking migraines, but I used to work in Radiation Oncology so I automatically think tumor when there’s a relentless severe headache.)

    Looks like you’ve got lots of great advice already. The only thing I can add is a trick I used when my kids had chicken pox. I would sometimes put a light-weight towel over their rash and stroke gently – relieved the itch and didn’t chance spreading it or breaking the blisters.

    I’d offer to eat Baby Ruth’s for you, but I”m trying to get my sugar binge under control. (note to self: get stress under control, too!) So I’ll save them for you and send them in a month! Many hugs and prayers heading your way.


  37. S. J. Maylee says:

    Oh, Jenny. I wish my arms could reach all the way to CA and give you a comfy hug. My college roommate got the shingles while studying for the LSATS. Stress is a bugger. I say once they’re gone, skip the tiny Baby Ruth and go for the big bar. You deserve it. Oh, and more cowbell, laughter will get you through.


  38. Jenny, Jenny, Jenny ~ what a year you have had. Let’s trust that shingles is the grand finale and it will be clear sailing for you after that. I’ll add my vote for the Braggs apple cider vinegar. My DH is an MD and swears by it … thanks to Kristy for the straw tip! See that, Jenny? We’re always learning something here at More Cowbell … if it ain’t about undies, it’s something else …
    Sending *speedy recovery karma* and a toast with that apple cider vinegar ~clink~


  39. Mike Young says:

    My doctor mentioned shingles last time I was in – said at 66 I could be vulnerable. I looked at the brochure, read the scary stories, and was sold.
    Had to do a blood test to confirm I did in fact once have chicken pox, then scheduled the shot for this Tuesday!.


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