Shingles sound harmless enough. It’s just a rash, right? Wrong. The rash may fade in a few weeks, but the intense pain can linger for years. What’s more, the illness increases your risk of stroke. Thanks to modern research and medicine, you don’t have to be a victim.

You’ve actually faced this virus before when you had chickenpox. Your immune system conquered the symptoms within a few weeks but could not get rid of the virus. So this herpes varicella-zoster virus stayed in your body, waiting for your immune system to become weak enough to defeat. Sometimes, that never happens. But if age or other issues weaken your immune system enough, the virus triggers the condition.

Most of the time, the rash develops around your chest or abdomen, but it can appear on your arms, legs, or face, which is particularly dangerous. If you develop blisters on your face, especially near your eye, you should seek immediate medical care as this type may result in loss of vision. Read on for seven ways to quickly and effectively relieve symptoms. Also, you may be surprised what ingredient is in – what some say – the best ointment for shingles.

Add pineapple slices to a ham sandwich

A British study found that people who ate one piece of fruit or less daily had three times as much risk of developing the condition as people who ate more than three servings of fruit every day. And for people over age 60, the fewer vegetables they ate, the higher their risk of suffering this painful condition.

Add shredded peppers and carrots to chili

The British researchers suspect fruits, vegetables, and the vitamins and minerals they studied help defend your immune system against age-related weakening, making you less vulnerable. But this only works if you eat enough fruits and vegetables. Start by making small changes.

Apply honey

One study showed that applying honey to sores caused by other herpes viruses healed those sores faster than the popular prescription treatment acyclovir. More research is needed to learn whether honey can be used as a shingles ointment.

More lysine, less arginine.

Cold sores and genital herpes are caused by herpes simplex viruses, cousins of the herpes varicella-zoster. Several studies have shown that eating more of the amino acid lysine may help prevent cold sores and herpes outbreaks. This has led some experts to suggest lysine may also fight the virus. So far, no studies have proven that lysine can defeat the virus or help during an outbreak, but some people swear by it. One person says he never needed pain medicine because he immediately started taking antiviral medication, eating more lysine-rich foods, taking lysine supplements, and restricting arginine-rich foods. High-arginine foods include chocolate, nuts, oats, seeds, coconut, wheat, gelatin, and peanut butter.

Move over pain pills.

Capsaicin delivers relief in a topical shingles ointment. When you apply capsaicin cream to your skin, it zaps substance P, a chemical that tells your brain, “Ouch, this hurts!” The less substance P you have, the less pain you feel, especially if you suffer from arthritis, diabetic nerve pain, backaches, or psoriasis.

For achy fingers, massage hands with cream, but don’t wash right away. Give the medication at least 30 minutes to work before rinsing. Daily application will desensitize your nerves, but it may take up to two months. Many users find that it is the best ointment for shingles.

An ounce of prevention.

Avoid an attack by getting the zoster vaccine. It slashes your risk by half. The CDC recommends that everyone over age 60 get it, unless you have a weakened immune system or take biologic drugs for rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors can give it to adults as young as age 50. You can even get it if you have already had an attack, to prevent another one.

A pound of cure.

See your doctor immediately if you suspect you have shingles. Taking an anti-viral drug within three days of developing symptoms, preferably before blisters form, can ease the pain and shorten the illness. Experts know that the drug does not kill the virus, like antibiotics kill bacteria, but they hinder the virus and hasten recovery. Anti-viral drugs can also reduce your stroke risk following an outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you have a 30 percent chance of developing it during your life. Most people only get the painful condition once, but it can hit two or even three times.

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