Chickenpox in Children: Care Instructions

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Overview

Chickenpox is a common disease caused by the varicella virus. It causes an itchy rash and red spots or blisters (pox) on the skin all over the body. Your child also can have blisters on the scalp and in the eye.

Chickenpox is most contagious from 2 to 3 days before the rash forms until no new blisters form and all the blisters have crusted over. That may be 7 days or more after the blisters first appear. It may take up to 2 weeks for the scabs to go away. Most children feel better within a week. You can care for your child at home.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Help your child get plenty of rest.
  • Try to keep your child from scratching the chickenpox rash.
  • Give your child warm or cool baths with oatmeal bath products, such as Aveeno. This will reduce itching. You can also add a handful of oatmeal (ground to a powder) to your child's bath. After a bath, pat—rather than rub—your child's skin dry.
  • Wet a soft cloth with cool water or with cool water mixed with baking soda. Put the cool compress directly on the skin to cool your child's skin and relieve itching.
  • Use soothing lotions that can help dry chickenpox blisters, such as those that contain:
    • Phenol, menthol, and camphor, such as calamine lotion.
    • Oatmeal, such as Aveeno Lotion.
  • Try to keep your child from getting hot and sweaty. Getting hot will make the itching worse.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Ask the doctor about giving your child an over-the-counter antihistamine to help calm the itching.
    • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever and pain. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not use lotions or creams that contain antihistamines.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has a new or worsening cough and is short of breath.
  • Your child has a fever with a stiff neck or a severe headache.
  • Your child is sensitive to light or seems very sleepy or confused.
  • Your child has eye pain or drainage.
  • Your child has signs of an infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the chickenpox blisters.
    • Pus draining from the blisters.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.