Chickenpox is a viral infection that causes itching and flu-like symptoms. While the varicella vaccine is 90 percent effective in preventing chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox doesn’t have a cure.
If you do get chickenpox, treatment involves managing symptoms until your body fights off the infection.
The disease most often affects children under age 12. Here are some kid-friendly remedies that can help you or your little one feel better until your immune system fends off the virus.
1. Apply calamine lotion
Calamine lotion can help reduce itching. This lotion contains skin-soothing properties, including zinc oxide.
Using a clean finger or cotton swab, dab or spread calamine lotion on itchy skin areas. Note that you shouldn’t use calamine lotion on or around chickenpox on your eyes.
2. Serve sugar-free popsicles
Chickenpox can also appear inside your mouth. This can be especially painful.
Encouraging a child to suck on sugar-free popsicles can be a good way to soothe mouth sores. As a bonus, this allows your child to get more fluids and avoid dehydration.
3. Bathe in oatmeal
Oatmeal baths can be soothing and itch-relieving for chickenpox. Taking a bath won’t spread the chickenpox from one area of your skin to another.
While you can purchase oatmeal bath products at most drugstores, you can also make your own oatmeal bath using the following steps:
- Use one cup of oatmeal for an older child or 1/3 cup for a baby or small child. The oatmeal can be unflavored instant, slow-cooked oats, or quick oats. You can use a food processor or coffee grinder to make the oatmeal flakes very small. Placing oatmeal in a muslin bag or pantyhose can also work.
- Draw a bath of warm (not hot) water. Place one tablespoon of ground oatmeal into a glass of warm water. If the oats appear to be absorbing water and turning the water a milky shade, the oatmeal is finely ground enough.
- Place the oatmeal or bag of oats into the bath. Soak for no more than 20 minutes.
You may also apply oatmeal lotions to skin. This can have a soothing and moisturizing effect on itchy chickenpox blisters.
4. Wear mittens to prevent scratching
Itching your blisters may be tempting but it can worsen discomfort and expose your skin to infection.
To prevent the temptation at night or during naptime, put mittens or soft socks over your child’s hands to keep them from scratching when they’re asleep. Trimming your child’s fingernails so they won’t damage affected areas can also help.
5. Take baking soda baths
Another itch-relieving option to add to a bath is baking soda. Add one cup of baking soda to a shallow, lukewarm bath. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Your child can take up to three baths a day if they find this approach soothing.
6. Use chamomile compresses
The chamomile tea in your kitchen cabinet can also soothe itchy chickenpox areas. Chamomile has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects when applied to your skin.
Brew two to three chamomile tea bags and allow to cool or place in a warm bath. Then, dip soft cotton pads or washcloths in the tea and apply to itching areas of skin. Always pat skin dry gently when done applying the compresses.
7. Give approved pain relievers
If your child’s chickenpox blisters are especially painful or they have a fever, you may wish to give them medication.
However, it’s important not to give a child or teenager aspirin as they are at increased risk for a condition called Reye’s syndrome if they take aspirin during or when they’re recovering from an infection like chickenpox. Instead, medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) can help to relieve painful symptoms.
When should you see a doctor?
While most cases of chickenpox will go away with time, there are some instances where you should call your doctor or pediatrician. These include:
- if your child is under age 1 and has the virus
- if your child has a history of a weak immune system or is immunocompromised due to chronic illness or cancer
- if your child has a fever greater than 102°F (39°C) or if their fever lasts longer than four days
- if your child has a stiff neck, confusion, problems breathing, or a rash that’s bleeding
Sometimes your doctor may recommend antiviral medications to reduce the duration of chickenpox.