Shingles — also called herpes zoster — is a type of infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus responsible for chickenpox.

With about a million new cases in the United States each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 3 Americans will develop shingles during their lifetime.

Shingles may appear as a red, purplish, dark pink, or dark brown rash with blisters, depending on your skin tone. It most commonly develops on the face, neck, chest, or abdomen.

Other symptoms include fatigue, headache, fever, and long lasting nerve pain called post-herpetic neuralgia, according to 2017 research.

Healthcare professionals commonly treat shingles pain with analgesics (or pain relievers) like lidocaine patches, but it’s usually recommended after an active shingles infection has resolved but the pain lingers.

Since lidocaine is the main ingredient in the topical pain reliever Bactine, you may wonder whether Bactine can help with shingles pain.

This article explains all you need to know about Bactine and its potential role in the management of shingles.

Because Bactine is a topical treatment that can help reduce pain, you may wonder whether it can help with shingles.

The answer is no, Bactine can’t treat the shingles virus. It won’t make your shingles go away.

It may, however, make some symptoms more manageable.

May kill germs associated with skin infections

According to information published by Bactine MAX, the pain-relieving spray and liquid, antiseptic wound wash, and liquid bandage products are proven to kill nine bacteria associated with skin infections.

These include Escherichia coli (E. coli), Candida albicans, Klebsiella, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

That means using Bactine could help prevent or get rid of any of these skin infections.

But shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — not bacteria. So an antibacterial product like Bactine MAX won’t kill the virus or treat the shingles infection.

Could offer pain relief at a certain stage in the healing process

Although Bactine can’t treat the viral shingles infection itself, it does contain lidocaine, which may offer some pain relief.

Lidocaine is a local anesthetic, commonly used in many pain medications for its numbing effects.

Per 2021 research, lidocaine patches containing 5% lidocaine have been approved for topical use in the management of post-herpetic neuralgia. This is the long lasting, debilitating nerve pain experienced by most people recovering from shingles.

Bactine contains medicinal levels of lidocaine at a concentration of 4%, and its published data suggests that it can be used on open and healing cuts and scrapes. That doesn’t support its use for active shingles infection, though.

However, research findings do not recommend the application of topical lidocaine to open wounds, burns, or inflamed skin. This means you should try using Bactine on shingles only after any blisters have crusted over.

And keep in mind that other research from 2021 suggests that administering lidocaine via an injection into subcutaneous fat or muscle is more effective than applying a topical ointment, cream, or spray.

What is Bactine?

Bactine MAX, often referred to as just Bactine, is a range of pain-relieving topical products for the treatment of cuts, scrapes, and minor burns.

Made in the United States, Bactine Max offers four products, including:

  • Liquid Bandage
  • Advanced Healing + Scar Defense Hydrogel
  • Pan Relieving Cleansing Spray & Liquid
  • First Aid Antiseptic Wound Wash

These contain varying levels of the anesthetic lidocaine and antiseptic ingredients like Benzalkonium chloride. The brand claims that most of its products can kill up to 99.9% of germs commonly associated with skin infections.

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The first line of treatment for shingles is the use of antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir.

The National Institute on Aging offers some tips for managing shingles at home:

  • Do not scratch blisters to avoid additional injury or infection.
  • Apply a cool washcloth to the blisters to ease the pain.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • Keep the area clean, and use calamine lotion to soothe your skin.
  • Try to maintain a balanced diet.
  • Rest as much as you can.

Before starting a new treatment regimen for shingles, please consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best options for you.

Here are some questions people often ask about Bactine and shingles.

What topical product can you put on shingles?

The NIH recommends calamine lotion and oatmeal baths during an active shingles infection to soothe the inflamed skin.

Topical products that contain lidocaine, including Bactine, may reduce post-herpetic neuralgia associated with shingles but should not be used on open wounds, and it’s unclear how much Bactine can help.

Apply only after the blisters have crusted over and are closed.

Can vaccines prevent shingles?

Yes, vaccination against the varicella-zoster virus plays an important role in the management of shingles.

The vaccine may not fully prevent the development of shingles, but it’s proven to reduce the likelihood that you will experience the infection more than 90%.

People who remain unvaccinated are also more susceptible to contracting shingles if they come into contact with a person with an active shingles infection, specifically the fluid from the shingles rash.

What to know about the shingles vaccine

The shingles vaccine is safe and effective. Side effects are uncommon and typically mild when they do appear.

The CDC recommends that all adults age 50 and over — and adults age 19 and over with certain health conditions — receive the shingles vaccine, also known as Shringrix.

It’s also recommended for people who received an older version of the vaccine, called Zostavax.

However, you can’t get vaccinated against shingles if you have an active shingles infection.

Learn more about the shingles vaccine, including when and how to receive it.

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Shingles is a type of viral infection characterized by a rash with discoloration and blisters on the face, neck, abdomen, or chest, as well as long lasting nerve pain.

Healthcare professionals primarily treat it with antiviral medications. People recovering from shingles may benefit from the topical application of lidocaine-containing products like Bactine once the blisters have crusted over.

Bactine may provide pain-relief benefits for people with shingles due to its medicinal levels of lidocaine, but it’s unclear just how helpful it will be. Plus, it’s designed to treat bacterial infections, so it can’t cure or treat the viral shingles infection itself.

Be sure to talk with a healthcare professional for help treating your shingles, and ask them about receiving the shingles vaccine to help prevent getting it again later.