Here is some information about the medicines used when you have shingles. Only the most basic problems are listed. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special steps. Use each of these medicines as advised by your doctor or package instructions. If you have any questions, call your doctor.

No medicine can cure shingles. They can shorten how long you are sick, lower the risk of problems, and ease pain.

If you get postherpetic neuralgia with pain, your doctor may give you medicines that are used for pain.

Prescription Medications

Antiviral medicine

  • Acyclovir
  • Valacyclovir
  • Famciclovir

Corticosteroids

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone

Over the Counter Medications

  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Antipruritics
    • Diphenhydramine
    • Caladryl
  • Antibiotic ointment:
    • Polysporin
    • Neosporin
  • Capsaicin cream:
    • Zostrix

Prescription Medications

Antiviral Medicines

Common names are:

  • Acyclovir
  • Valacyclovir
  • Famciclovir

These can shorten how long you are sick. They may also ease pain. They may also help avoid problems, such as post-herpetic neuralgia.

Side effects may be:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Belly pain
  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Shaking
Corticosteroids

Common names are:

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone

This may ease short term pain.

Side effects are:

Over the Counter Medications

Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen can help ease aches and pains.

Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen can also help ease aches and pains. To lower your chance of having an upset stomach, take ibuprofen with food.

Anti-itch Medications
Diphenhydramine

Common brand name: Benadryl

Diphenhydramine can help ease itching from the rash.

Side effects may be:

  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness—Do not take this before driving or using heavy machines.
  • Increased effects of alcohol or other sedatives
Caladryl Lotion

Caladryl lotion can help soothe the itching from the rash. Put it on several times each day.

Antibiotic Ointment

Antibiotic ointments may help if your rash has become infected. Talk to your doctor about whether you need to put it on open areas of your rash. You put it on several times each day.

Capsaicin Cream

Capsaicin cream is used on the skin to ease itching, burning, and pain. Do not use it until your rash has crusted over.

Side effects may be burning, stinging, or a warm feeling when you first put it on your skin.

Special Considerations

If you are taking medicines, follow these steps:

  • Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or schedule. Ask what problems could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor. Plan ahead for refills if you need them.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicine. Medicines can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one, including over-the-counter products and supplements.
  • Do not share your prescription medication.
  • Medications can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one medication, including over-the-counter products and supplements.
  • Plan ahead for refills as needed.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you:

  • Have any questions about your medicine
  • Have any problems
  • Feel that the medicine is not working

Revision Information