Shingles and Chickenpox (Varicella-Zoster Virus)
Home Treatments for Chickenpox
Acetaminophen. Patients with chickenpox do not have to stay in bed unless fever and flu symptoms are severe. To relieve discomfort, a child can take acetaminophen (Tylenol, generic), with doses determined by the doctor. A child should never be given aspirin, or medications containing aspirin, as aspirin increases the risk for a dangerous condition called Reye syndrome.
Soothing Baths. Frequent baths are particularly helpful in relieving itching, when used with preparations of finely ground (colloidal) oatmeal. Commercial preparations (Aveeno) are available in drugstores, or one can be made at home by grinding or blending dry oatmeal into a fine powder. Use about 2 cups per bath. The oatmeal will not dissolve, and the water will have a scum. Adding baking soda (1/2 - 1 cup) to a bath may also help.
Lotions. Patients can apply calamine lotion and similar over-the-counter preparations to the blisters to help dry them out and soothe the skin.
Antihistamines. For severe itching, diphenhydramine (Benadryl, generic) is useful and may help children sleep.
Preventing Scratching. Small children may have to wear mittens so that they don't scratch the blisters and cause a secondary infection. All patients with varicella, including adults, should have their nails trimmed short.
Acyclovir for Chickenpox
Acyclovir is an antiviral drug that may be used in adult varicella patients or those of any age with a high risk for complications and severe forms of chickenpox. The drug may also benefit smokers with chickenpox, who are at higher than normal risk for pneumonia. Some doctors recommend its use for children who catch chickenpox from other family members because such patients are at risk for more serious cases. To be effective, oral acyclovir must be taken within 24 hours of the onset of the rash. Early intravenous administration of acyclovir is an essential treatment for chickenpox pneumonia.