Chickenpox usually runs its course in 5 to 10 days. But if you have the itchy rash caused by the virus, that can feel like a very long time. Fortunately, there are things you can do at home to ease your symptoms while your body heals itself.
Use Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for Pain and Fever
If you or your child has a high fever or achiness caused by chickenpox, reach for the Tylenol. It can even help relieve pain associated with sores that develop on your skin or in your mouth. It’s safe for most people, including pregnant women and children over 2 months old.
Avoid anti-inflammatory painkillers, like ibuprofen. If you have chickenpox, it can make you very ill. Never give aspirin to children under age 16. It can lead to a serious complication called Reye’s syndrome.
Don’t Scratch That Itch
Yes, it’s tempting. But scratching your rash can put you at risk for a bacterial skin infection. It could also cause scarring. Try these tips to calm your itchy skin:
- Tap or pat -- don’t scratch -- your itch
- Take a cool oatmeal bath (you can buy it at your local drugstore). Dab or pat (don’t rub) your skin dry.
- Wear loose, cotton clothing so your skin can breathe
- Dab calamine lotion on your itchy spots
- Try an antihistamine, like Benadryl, to ease your symptoms
Keep Your Cool
Heat and sweat make you itch more. Use a cool, wet washcloth on super-itchy areas to calm your skin.
Drink lots of fluids to help your body rid itself of the virus faster. It’ll also keep you from getting dehydrated.
Choose water over sugary drinks or sodas, especially if you or your child has chickenpox in the mouth. Sugar-free popsicles are a good choice, too.
Avoid hard, spicy, or salty foods that can make your mouth sore.
If you’ve been exposed to someone who has chickenpox but doesn’t have symptoms yet, your doctor may give you an injection of a treatment called immunoglobulin. It can help prevent severe chickenpox. Your doctor may consider this therapy if you’re:
- A smoker
- Living with HIV
- Having chemotherapy (“chemo”) or taking high doses of steroid medication
Newborn babies under 4 weeks old are also at increased risk for complications from chickenpox.
If you’re at risk for severe chickenpox and already have symptoms, your doctor might prescribe an antiviral medication called acyclovir (Sitavig, Zovirax). It can help to make your symptoms less severe. You’ll take the first dose within 24 hours of developing the rash. Then you’ll take a tablet 5 times a day for 7 days.