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Caused by the varicella-zoster virus, chickenpox is a contagious disease that lasts 5 to 10 days. It is known for its uncomfortable and itchy rash that progresses into fluid-filled blisters and then scabs.
Although it usually starts on the chest, face or back, chickenpox can cover the entire body. There is a chickenpox vaccine.
Most cases of chickenpox are in children under age 15, so when you suggest an oatmeal bath, their first thought will be of a tub brimming with the sticky, hot breakfast food.
You can reassure your child that is not the case. And they’ll be happy to know an oatmeal bath should ease their annoying itch.
This soothing treatment uses colloidal oatmeal that’s ground into a fine powder so it will mix with the bathwater and not all sink to the bottom.
Colloidal oatmeal has been used as an at-home, skin-soothing remedy for generations. But science backs up its efficacy, too.
Multiple studies, including those from 2015 (by Johnson & Johnson researchers),
Colloidal oats can moisturize skin as well as act as an emollient to improve dry skin. They also have high levels of starch to work as an agent that soothes and protects skin.
- Start filling a clean bathtub with tepid water.
- Add about 1/3 cup of colloidal oatmeal. By pouring in the oatmeal under the tap when it is running, it should mix into the bathwater easily.
- Once the tub is filled to an appropriate level, mix with your hand, making sure to stir up any oatmeal that had sunk to the bottom.
- The water should have a silky feel and look milky.
Your child should stay in the oatmeal bath however long your doctor suggests, typically about 10 minutes. Depending of the age of the child, you can scoop up and dribble the milky water over the parts of your child that are not under water.
Be aware that the colloidal oats can make the tub extremely slippery.
When finished, rinse well, then use a soft towel to blot and pat your child dry. Rubbing can irritate sensitive skin.
Colloidal oatmeal is available at most drugstores and online. You can also make your own colloidal oatmeal.
How to make colloidal oatmeal
Colloidal oatmeal is regular oatmeal that has been powdered. If you have a food processor, blender or coffee grinder, and oatmeal (not instant), you’re ready to make colloidal oatmeal.
- Pour 1/3 cup of the oatmeal into your blender set to the highest setting and grind it into a fine, even powder. It needs to be very fine so it will mix into the bathwater and not sink to the bottom of the tub.
- Test your grind by adding about 1 tablespoon of the powdered oats into 8 ounces of warm water. With a good stir, the powder should quickly turn the water into a milky color with a silky feel.
- If most of the powder sinks to the bottom of the glass, you need to grind it finer.
Colloidal oatmeal baths can offer some relief to the extreme itchiness that accompanies chickenpox. Check with your child’s doctor for a recommendation of how many soothing baths your child can take each day until the disease runs its course.
Colloidal oatmeal is readily available to purchase or you can make it yourself. Either way it can help your child with the symptoms of chickenpox.