Chickenpox Symptoms, Treatments & Tips
This is a common childhood ailment and isn’t considered a serious health risk that needs professional medical attention (in most cases). Keep in mind that it’s more severe for adults (especially men who are twice as likely to die from it than women), though once you have it you should be immune from it for life.
The biggest concern for chickenpox is the dreadful itchiness it causes and this has parents scrambling to find helpful items for relief.
Here you’ll find a handy tipsheet loaded with home remedies I’ve culled from my notes (for both soothing bath additives and topical skin treatments). I’ve also added some general info you may find helpful.
There will likely be cold or flu-like symptoms at first (fever, chills, weakness, headaches) then a couple days later you’ll notice a rash develop (initially pink and then darkens in color to red)…you’ll notice just a few spots at first but they will rapidly multiply over the next little while.
The rash/bumps will turn into blisters and they can number in the hundreds. A fresh crop will appear daily for usually up to 5 days (it can go longer in more severe cases). The blisters will be liquid filled and crust over before dropping off (once they’ve all crusted, the contagious period is over).
Need help with itch relief? A cool to lukewarm bath every few hours is soothing and beneficial, wash up with soap during at least one of the daily baths to help keep blisters clean, washing away any bacteria and helping fight infection.
For increased itch-fighting power, try adding one of these items to the water:
- A cup of oatmeal (fill a clean sock or nylon hose and tie off the end). For more power, soak the sock in a pail with about 4 cups of hot water and leave it to soak for approximately 10 minutes. Dump both the hot liquid and the sock in a full tub of cool/lukewarm temperature, swoosh around so there aren’t any hot spots before patient gets in to soak. The oatmeal filled sock can be used to wash skin (gently).
- A cup of baking soda
- Epsom salts (dissolve 1 to 2 cups in water before getting in the tub)
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 4 TBS cornstarch
- 1 cup baking soda with 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- Make a ginger tea by peeling a piece of fresh ginger root (about 2″ long), cut into thin slices then cover with about 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil then simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit. Strain then add liquid to cool bath (stir it first so patient won’t get burned). If patient finds the ginger soothing, you can make a big batch of it and keep it refrigerated (can be used for both compresses and baths).
Dabbers that can be applied topically to skin (for itch relief):
- Calamine lotion
- Apple cider vinegar
- Honey (smear all over skin)
- Baking soda & water paste
- Baking soda & vinegar paste
- Vitamin E oil
- Aloe vera gel
- Boil 1 heaping tablespoon of turmeric per 1 cup of water for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring well as it thickens (cook until thick). Refrigerate in a small glass jar and apply as a paste (cover with cotton strips to protect blankets and clothing from getting stained).
- Olive oil: dab on blisters that have crusted over, this can help them to drop off sooner.
- If children won’t stop scratching, try putting a soft cotton sock or mitt over each hand and keep their fingernails trimmed short.
- A cool compress over sore areas can be soothing (just plain, cool water can help but you can also try soaking cloth in a peppermint infusion or ginger tea infusion). Soaking in a mixture of 1/2 cup Epsom Salts to 4 cups lukewarm water can also be beneficial.
- Keep patient cool and wear loose clothing.
- Do not leave patient unattended in the bath (or shower) since they are generally weakened from the illness, it takes just a couple minutes to lose consciousness and drown (even in a very shallow tub).
- An antihistamine can bring relief, talk to your local pharmacist or doctor for recommendations.
Why scratching should be prevented: It can result in permanent scarring as well as infected blisters.
What not to do: Do not give aspirin to a child with chickenpox since this can increase the risk of Reye’s Syndrome.
What to watch for: This isn’t considered a serious illness that needs professional medical care (normally), but contact your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Labored breathing or a moderate/severe cough
- Child complains of a severe headache, dizziness or is vomiting
- Fever above 102°F
- Stiff, painful back or neck
- Eyes are sore and red
- Blisters are bleeding, welting or look infected with pus
- Swollen lymph glands (groin, neck or under arms)
It can be dangerous for pregnant women and those with a lower immune system (newborns, cancer patients, the elderly) and doctors should be contacted immediately if chickenpox exposure is suspected.
Is it contagious? Yes, very! This is a virus (varicella-zoster) that can be spread by both direct contact and airborne droplets. Keep children home from school when spots first appear (though they have been contagious 24 hours or so before the rash appears). They’re no longer contagious 24 hours after all the sores have crusted over (about 5 days after rash appears). The entire contagious period is typically one week though can be longer until blisters have stopped developing and each has crusted over.
How long before you know whether or not you caught it? If you’ve been in contact with someone who has chickenpox, it can take 10 to 21 days before it makes an appearance.
Did you know: For those of us who have had it as a child or have been vaccinated for it, we should be immune for life though the virus stays dormant in our bodies and can be triggered again when we’re older (making its appearance known with shingles).
Please Note: This information is from my collection of remedies and notes, none of the above is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and is provided for general knowledge purposes only.