Shingles (Herpes zoster) is a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters in a limited area on one side of the body, often in a stripe. The initial infection is the short-lived illness chickenpox, which generally occurs in children.

Once an episode of chickenpox has resolved, the virus is not eliminated from the body and can go on to cause shingles, often many years after the initial infection.

The virus may spread to one or more nerve paths. Although the rash usually heals within a couple weeks, some sufferers experience nerve pain for months or even years.

People with mild to moderate pain can be treated with over-the-counter analgesics. Topical lotions containing an anesthetic (lidocaine – prescription strength/RX) or an anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen – non-prescription/OTC) can be very helpful. In rare occasions, severe pain may require an opioid medication.

Anti-viral medicines are not usually effective.

Compounding pharmacists can make a preparation of ibuprofen in a mild cream base – without irritating ingredients (such as the common preservatives). Users may apply the cream to the painful areas 3 to 5 times daily – as needed to control pain and itching. Ibuprofen cream will not cure herpes. Only time will cause the healing. However, judicious use of an ibuprofen pain cream can be most helpful during the time when the lesions are most painful.

Ibuprofen is generally safe, especially when applied topically. Therefore, check with a doctor before using a topical ibuprofen on a baby or child.