Chickenpox: What to Do If Your Child Comes Home With Them | Revere Health

Chickenpox cases have declined with the development of a vaccine, but there are still cases of the virus every year. The symptoms of chickenpox include a rash and fever. The rash typically begins on the face, chest and back before spreading to the rest of the body. Your child may also have loss of appetite, tiredness and a headache. The red spots will blister, then scab over.

Is chickenpox dangerous?

Chickenpox is a highly contagious virus, but most cases are mild. Spots can develop on any part of the body, including the mouth, eyes, nose and genitals. Children who have weakened immune systems from cancer, HIV or other conditions are at risk for complications. Adults who get chickenpox for the first time as an adult are also at risk for complications.

The chickenpox virus is the same virus that causes shingles, which is a delayed complication of chickenpox. About 20 percent of the population gets shingles, but it’s most common in people over 50. The chickenpox virus never goes away. If it becomes active later, it causes painful blisters. Fortunately, there is also a shingles vaccine for adults over 50.

What is the best way to treat them?

Most doctors recommend treating chickenpox at home, as the virus is contagious. Keep your child away from other people until he or she is no longer contagious. The American Academy of Dermatologists recommends:

  • Soaking in a colloidal oatmeal bath to relieve the itching. Use lukewarm, not hot water.
  • Using a topical ointment, such as calamine or other anti-itch lotion. Make sure it’s fragrance-free to avoid irritation.
  • Using non-aspirin medications to reduce fever and alleviate headaches. Using aspirin products to treat children with chickenpox has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, which is a severe disease that damages the brain and liver.
  • Taking over-the-counter antihistamines to help relieve itchiness. Make sure to use the correct dose on the label.
  • Trimming your child’s fingernails to prevent skin infections that occur from scratching. With young children, you can put mittens or socks on their hands. Don’t let your child pick at the chickenpox.
  • Dressing your child in cool, smooth fabrics, like cotton. Don’t let them become too cold or overheated.

When should I take my child to the doctor?

Home remedies are typically recommended. If your child develops the following symptoms, however, you should contact your doctor:

  • Convulsions
  • Inability to drink fluids
  • Getting worse instead of getting better
  • Breathing problems
  • Weakness, like being unsteady on his or her feet
  • Pains and headaches that get worse

How long does chickenpox take to go away?

It takes about a week for the blisters to scab. Once the spots are scabbed over, the person is no longer contagious. However, it can take up to two weeks for the scabs to completely go away. It’s important to keep the child from scratching at the chickenpox to limit scarring and infection.

Most of the time, children with chickenpox do not have complications. The most common complication is infection. A local antibiotic ointment will most likely clear this up. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have or if your child has a weak immune system.

Dr. Oneida practices the full range of family medicine including obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, adult medicine and some orthopedics. She also performs colposcopy, cryotherapy and vasectomies. Due to the volume of deliveries done, her practice has evolved to be more centered on women and children’s medicine, although she enjoys all aspects of family medicine. 

Sources:

“How to Care for Children With Chickenpox.” American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/contagious-skin-diseases/chickenpox

“Chickenpox in Children.” Dr. Mary Harding, Patient.info https://patient.info/health/viral-rashes/chickenpox-in-children

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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