There is no cure for chicken pox, but childhood vaccinations can prevent the illness. In a healthy child, general treatment for chicken pox includes rest, cool baths, and acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication for pain and fever. Additional medications used to treat symptoms of chicken pox include cough medicine and oral antihistamine medications for itching. Scratching the skin lesions increases the risk of bacterial infection (impetigo) and scarring.
Usually, symptoms of chicken pox are more severe in adults and in those who have an illness that weakens the immune system, such as AIDS. Those with severe illness may require treatment with antiviral medication, which can reduce the severity of the symptoms and shorten the course of chicken pox.
Treatment options for chicken pox include:
- Cool baths or cool compresses
- Regular bathing:
- Gentle cleaning of skin lesions
- Discourage scratching:
- Trim the fingernails
- Wear mittens during sleep
- Medications to reduce itching:
- Hydroxyzine hydrochloride (Atarax)
- Diphenhydramine hydrochloride (Benadryl)
- Cyproheptadine hydrochloride (Periactin)
- Fever control:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for fever control
- Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin, NeoProfen)
- Ketoprofen (Actron, Orudis, Oruvail)
- Naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, Aleve)
- Anti-viral medicines:
- Recommended for adults with chicken pox
- Recommended for those with a poorly functioning immune system
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
- Famciclovir (Famvir)
- Varicella-zoster immune globulin [VZIG]
- Recommended for those with a weak immune system, who are exposed to someone with chicken pox
- Must be given within 96 hrs. of exposure
- May shorten the course of disease but does not prevent it
Varicella Questions For Doctor
The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of chicken pox.
Questions to ask before treatment:
- What are my treatment options?
- What are the risks associated with treatment?
- Do I need to stay in the hospital?
- How long will I be in the hospital?
- Am I contagious?
- For how long?
- What are the complications I should watch for?
- How long will I be on medication?
- What are the potential side effects of my medication?
- Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
- Should I take my medication with food?
Questions to ask after treatment:
- Do I need to change my diet?
- Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
- When can I resume my normal activities?
- When can I return to work?
- What else can I do to reduce my risk for complications?
- How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
- What local support and other resources are available?
Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat chicken pox:
Continue to Varicella Home Care
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- Harris D, Redhead J. Should acyclovir be prescribed for immunocompetent children presenting with chickenpox? Arch Dis Child. 2005 Jun;90(6):648-50. 
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- Vazquez M. Varicella infections and varicella vaccine in the 21st century. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004 Sep;23(9):871-2.