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What are the treatments for chickenpox?

Medical Editor/Author, MedicineNet

There is no definitive treatment that will cure chicken pox.  It is a viral illness and it must run its course. Most of the treatments for chickenpox are aimed at decreasing the symptoms, and making the child slightly more comfortable to be able to tolerate the symptoms. 

The most common symptom that is difficult to cope with is the excessive itching due to the rash.   Frequent oatmeal baths 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 or other antihistamines can be helpful in controlling the itching. Always discuss these treatment options with your health-care practitioner.

Fevers are another common symptom of the illness. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen 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).

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 from scratching and to control the risks for secondary bacterial infections.

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