Chickenpox (Varicella)

  • Medical Author:
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are treatment options for chickenpox?

Most of the treatments for chickenpox are aimed at decreasing the symptoms, such as severe itching. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used to decrease the fevers and aches often associated with the initial presentation of the viral infection. Children should never be given acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) or aspirin-containing cold medications because of the risks for developing Reye's syndrome (a severe acquired metabolic disease associated with liver and brain dysfunction and death).

Frequent oatmeal baths (Aveeno, etc.) can decrease the itching associated with chickenpox. In addition, soothing lotions and moisturizers such as calamine lotion or any other similar over-the-counter preparation can be applied to the rash.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or other antihistamines can be helpful in controlling the itching. Always discuss these treatment options with your health-care practitioner.

In addition to medications, there are also preventive measures that are needed. For young children, it is important to keep nails trimmed in order to minimize injury due to scratching and to control the risks for secondary bacterial infections.

Lastly, in some cases of chickenpox, acyclovir (Zovirax) can be prescribed. Acyclovir is an antiviral medication which has been used to shorten the duration of the infection. This medication has only been shown to be affective if started within one to two days of onset of the rash associated with chickenpox. Most commonly, this treatment is reserved for patients with other diagnoses which put them at risk for severe disease (severe skin diseases, immunodeficiency).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2015
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