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Chickenpox, or varicella, is a common and highly contagious virus. Chickenpox is most common during childhood, but it is also possible for adults to get chickenpox.
The chickenpox infection generally clears up within a couple weeks, and the body will then create an immunity to the virus.
However, the symptoms of chickenpox can be extremely irritating while the infection is active.
The main symptom of chickenpox is a rash that produces red sores, similar to blisters, that spread all over the skin. The rash is itchy and occasionally painful, and it gets worse when a person scratches it.
However, many home remedies can help soothe the symptoms of chickenpox and discourage people from picking at the sores. Learn about home remedies for the symptoms of chickenpox in this article.
There is no cure for chickenpox. However, a vaccine can prevent most cases of the infection.
Usually, once a person gets the infection, they simply have to wait out the process as their body overcomes it.
Home remedies may help with certain symptoms and make the process more bearable. Below, we list possible remedies for each symptom.
Many people with chickenpox will complain of the persistent itch associated with the virus.
This symptom is especially difficult for children, as they may not understand that it is important not to scratch it.
Remedies for itchiness include:
- Calamine lotion: Calamine lotion is a mixture of zinc oxide and calamine. Gently applying it to the sores on the skin may help soothe itching.
- Baking soda baths: Adding a cup of baking soda to a cool bath may help soothe itchy skin.
- Oatmeal baths: Adding colloidal oatmeal or ground, uncooked oatmeal to a warm bath may help reduce itchiness. Oatmeal contains helpful anti-inflammatory compounds called beta glucans, which may reduce inflammation and the intensity of the itchiness.
- Cold compresses: Wrapping an ice pack in a towel and gently applying it to itchy skin may help soothe the itch.
- Chamomile tea: Applying cooled chamomile tea or adding chamomile flowers to a bath may also help soothe the itch, due to chamomile’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
- Antihistamines: Oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may help some people manage symptoms.
- Distraction: Although this is not a treatment, in many cases, simply taking the mind off the itch may be enough to resist the urge to scratch it. Playing games, reading, or watching engaging movies can be a good distraction, especially for children.
Preventing itching is also a vital part of treatment. Scratching the sores can make itching worse and may increase the risk of complications, such as open sores that bleed or develop a secondary infection.
Prevention tips include:
- cutting the nails short to avoid creating cuts in the skin
- putting clean socks on the hands at night to avoid scratching while sleeping
- wearing loose fitting clothing made from natural fibers, such as cotton
- patting the body dry with a clean towel after bathing, rather than rubbing the skin
- avoiding exertion or becoming too hot or sweaty, as this may irritate the sores
- not eating foods that are hot or spicy if mouth sores are present
Fever and pain
Many people with chickenpox develop a fever and will experience aches and pains.
Using over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as acetaminophen may help reduce symptoms of pain.
There are also children’s versions of these medications available.
Always follow the dosage instructions on the package or any special dosage instructions from a doctor or pharmacist.
People can try the following home remedies for sores that develop in the mouth:
- Popsicles: Sucking on popsicles may help reduce the itchiness and pain in the mouth. Ice cubes will also work, though they may not be as enjoyable.
- Chamomile tea: Sipping or swishing chamomile tea in the mouth may help reduce the inflammation that leads to itchiness and pain.
Chickenpox is most common in children, and there are some special things to consider when treating a child.
Children should not take adult versions of any medication, including OTC medication, unless a doctor specifically tells them to. Always stick to products designed for children and follow the dosage instructions.
Never use aspirin, and if possible, avoid using ibuprofen (Advil) in children with chickenpox. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that these products may lead to potentially life threatening complications.
It is also vital to take steps to prevent the spread of the infection. Keep children home from school and away from public spaces to prevent spreading the virus.
If it becomes necessary to set up a medical appointment for the child, call the doctor in advance. Showing up to urgent care may put other people, such as those with weakened immune systems and those who have not been vaccinated, at risk of contracting the infection.
Chickenpox tends to resolve without treatment, with no need to seek medical attention. However, in some special cases, a person should see a doctor.
Some people have a higher risk of complications, and they should contact a doctor at the first sign of chickenpox. These groups include:
- pregnant women
- people over the age of 12
- people with weakened immune systems
- people with chronic lung or skin conditions
- people undergoing steroid therapy
If a doctor diagnoses chickenpox early enough, they can prescribe an antiviral medication that may help clear up the infection faster.
Additionally, anyone who develops more severe symptoms should see a doctor. Severe symptoms include:
- a high fever or a fever that lasts for more than 4 days
- pus oozing from the sores
- difficulty walking, breathing, or waking
- stiff neck
- severe abdominal pain
Children routinely receive two doses of a chickenpox vaccine, which prevents chickenpox infections altogether in most cases. The small percentage of people who get the vaccination and still contract chickenpox will experience fewer or milder symptoms.
Chickenpox typically clears up on its own within 1–2 weeks. Managing symptoms can help many people find relief during this time.
It is also essential to find ways to avoid scratching the itch, as scratching may result in open cuts, infection, and scarring.
If a doctor diagnoses chickenpox early enough, they can prescribe medications to people at high risk to help clear the infection. Vaccines can also help people avoid the infection entirely.
Some of the home remedies in this article are available at drugstores or online.