How can I treat chickenpox at home?
Keep your nails trimmed – scratching your spots is one of the worst things you can do when you have chickenpox. If you do scratch your blisters open, you could cause permanent scarring of the skin, or the open blisters could become infected. The risk for infection is even higher if your nails aren’t clean, as dirt and bacteria underneath the fingernail can get directly into the broken skin.
It can be hard to resist the urge to scratch your blisters, so keeping your nails trimmed makes it less likely that you will break the skin when you do. For children and babies, you can also try putting on gloves or mittens to stop them from breaking the skin when they try to scratch.
Make sure you drink enough fluids – one of the symptoms that chickenpox can cause is a fever, which raises body temperature and can cause you to lose fluids through sweating. To prevent dehydration it is important to make sure that you are drinking fluids, preferably water. For children, it may be easier to convince them to snack on sugar-free ice lollies to hydrate them.
Wear comfortable clothes – clothing that is too tight or made from rougher fabrics, like denim, can rub against the skin and aggravate your rash. If you have a fever caused by chickenpox, these types of clothes can also make you feel hot and uncomfortable. You can reduce skin irritation by wearing loose clothing made from softer and cooler materials, such as cotton.
Use oatmeal to soothe the itching – colloidal oatmeal, which is a type of oatmeal that has been ground into a fine powder, is an effective way to soothe the itchiness caused by chickenpox. Colloidal oatmeal is thought to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, meaning that applying it directly to skin can help reduce irritation.
Colloidal oatmeal dissolves in warm water, so you can put a few spoonfuls into a bath and it won’t clog up your drain. Otherwise, you can combine it with water into a paste and apply it directly to your blisters, which can help to combat the itchiness and dry out the blisters. Colloidal oatmeal can be bought at most pharmacies or supermarkets, but if you can’t find any then you can also grind up regular porridge oats in a blender or food processor. The main difference between them is that colloidal oatmeal has bran in it, so it may be more effective in soothing itchiness than normal oats.
Try sodium bicarbonate to help with the itching and help stave off infection – more commonly known as baking soda or bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarbonate has mild antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. You can use bicarb in the same way as oatmeal – putting a few spoonfuls into a bath or mixing it with water into a paste for direct application to itchy or open spots.
What over-the-counter medications can treat chickenpox?
Calamine – calamine is a medication that is available over the counter in most pharmacies, and usually comes in the form of lotions and creams. Calamine products have anti-inflammatory properties, and are sold as anti-itch treatments because they can have a soothing effect on irritated skin caused by conditions such as chickenpox or eczema. Calamine lotions and creams are dabbed directly onto itchy spots to provide relief, and can also help to dry these spots out so they scab over and fall off faster.
Painkillers – chickenpox can sometimes cause pain and a high fever, which can be relieved by over the counter painkillers. The preferred painkiller to use to treat the symptoms of chickenpox is paracetamol. Some over the counter painkillers are also available in liquid form or as soluble tables (tablets that dissolve in water) for children or babies that have a hard time swallowing tablets.
It is important to remember that you should not use ibuprofen or aspirin to treat chickenpox, as they are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can cause severe adverse skin reactions when taken to treat a viral infection. If you are unsure about what medications are suitable for you, just have a chat with a pharmacist or a GP before taking anything.
What prescription medications can treat chickenpox?
Antiviral medication – in severe cases of chickenpox, or if you are in an at-risk group that is particularly vulnerable to chickenpox and its complications, a doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine called aciclovir. While aciclovir cannot cure you completely of chickenpox, it can reduce the severity of your symptoms and make them more manageable.
Immunoglobulin treatment – varicella zoster immunoglobulin (VZIG) is a medication made from the antibodies of healthy blood donors who are immune to chickenpox, and is given as an intramuscular (straight into the muscle) injection. This treatment is normally reserved for people who are at risk of severe chickenpox or complications, typically pregnant women who have been exposed to the chickenpox virus who were not already immune or people who are immunosuppressed.
How can I prevent chickenpox?
Chickenpox vaccine – the chickenpox vaccine is the most effective way to prevent a chickenpox infection. The chickenpox vaccine exposes your immune system to a little bit of the chickenpox virus, so it can produce antibodies to make you immune to the virus without having to get ill first. The chickenpox vaccine is not currently available routinely from the NHS, but you can get it with Superdrug Health Clinics.