6 Ways to Treat Chickenpox Symptoms

Medications and Home Remedies That Offer Relief

Oatmeal baths can help relieve itching caused by chicken pox.
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Chickenpox is usually a benign disease that resolves on its own without complications. With that being said, the symptoms of the disease can be incredibly uncomfortable and require multiple treatments to help a child recover safely and without incident.

Here are just some of the ways to do so:

Antiviral Medications

An antiviral drug called Zovirax (acyclovir) may provide relief if prescribed within 24 hours of the first appearance of a rash.

If taken within this time frame, Zovirax can reduce the duration of the illness by a day or so and may even decrease the severity of the rash outbreak. After 24 hours, these benefits quickly wane. It is for this reason that antivirals are not typically recommended for children with healthy immune systems.

On the other hand, Zovirax is strongly recommended for newborns, children with an underlying skin condition such as eczema, or those with a compromised immune system.

In addition to Zovirax, the antiviral drug Valtrex (valacyclovir) is commonly used to treat chickenpox, while Varizig (an antibody-based therapy) has been approved for persons at high risk of complications, including immune-compromised children, newborns, and pregnant women.

Tylenol (Acetaminophen)

Persons with chickenpox will typically experience headaches, fever, fatigue, and muscle aches alongside the itchiness and inflammation of the rash.

Tylenol (acetaminophen) can help relieve many of these symptoms.

By contrast, aspirin is contraindicated in children under 16 due to the high risk of Reye's syndrome, a potentially life-threatening illness characterized by vomiting, confusion, personality changes, seizures, liver toxicity, and the loss of consciousness.

Colloidal Oatmeal Baths

Frequent baths using finely ground (colloidal) oatmeal can be helpful in relieving itchiness. The ingredients can be prepared at home by grinding oatmeal into a fine powder and adding two cups to the bath water. A cup of baking soda may also be used as its alkaline properties can help dry out ruptured blisters and relieve itching.

Calamine Lotion

Calamine lotion is an effective topical medication used to treat mild itchiness. The lotion contains either zinc oxide or zinc carbonate, both of which are commonly used to treat diaper rash and contact dermatitis. The lotion is applied to the skin and allowed to dry.

Calamine lotion comes in different strengths, so it is important to read and follow the instructions closely. Calamine should not be applied to the eyes or the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, genitals, or anus.

Oral Antihistamines

Oral antihistamines, commonly used to treat allergies and asthma, may be prescribed if the itching is especially severe. Benedryl (diphenhydramine) is a well-known brand available over the counter. It may cause drowsiness and, in doing so, help a person sleep. Another antihistamine known as Atarax (hydroxyzine) is available by prescription and has a similar sedating effect.

Newer-generation antihistamines such as Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), and Allegra (fexofenadine) can also relieve itching but do not cause drowsiness, making them ideal daytime options.

Nail Clippers

Scratching the rash increases the risk of secondary infections and permanent scarring. It is important, therefore, to trim your child's nails and keep them clean. Very small children may need to wear mittens to avoid scratching.


Cohen, J. and Breuer, J. "Chickenpox: treatment." BMJ Clin Evid. 2015; 2015:0912. PMCID: PMC4468609.