How Do Health-Care Professionals Diagnose Chickenpox?
A doctor usually bases a diagnosis of chickenpox on the clinical history and physical findings. However, laboratory exams can be useful. Your doctor can test blister fluid if there is a concern about secondary skin infection by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria. If the blisters are infected with bacteria, such a bacterial culture can help determine which antibiotic may be needed.
Are There Home Remedies for Chickenpox?
Most cases of chickenpox can be managed at home. Chickenpox rash tends to be extremely itchy. Several treatments can be used at home to help a child feel better.
- Cool compresses applied to blisters may give relief, as may calamine lotion. Lotions containing diphenhydramine (Benadryl) should not be used -- erratic absorption through open skin lesions may occur and be associated with toxicity due to elevated blood levels.
- You can give cool-water baths every three to four hours, adding baking soda to the water to calm itching. You may also soak in an Aveeno oatmeal bath to soothe itching blisters.
- Trimming fingernails can help prevent infection from scratching the blisters. If you have a small infant with chickenpox, cover the child's hands with mittens to minimize scratching.
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), loratadine (Claritin), or cetirizine (Zyrtec) taken orally also can relieve itching. These medicines are available over the counter.
- Treat fever with acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin are common brand names). Read the label before giving any medication. Some medicines contain many different agents. If the medicine is for a child, make sure it contains no aspirin. Never give aspirin to a child because aspirin has been associated with Reye's syndrome.
- Occasionally a child will develop blisters in the mouth, making eating or drinking painful. A person should be encouraged to drink fluids to prevent dehydration. To alleviate pain, provide cold fluids (ice pops, milk shakes, and smoothies) and soft bland foods. Avoid any foods that are spicy, hot, or acidic (for instance, orange juice).
- Keep children at home from school and day care until all blisters have crusted. A child with chickenpox is extremely contagious until the last crop of blisters has crusted.
- If you take your child to a doctor's office, call ahead to let the staff know that you think your child has chickenpox. They may usher you to a special waiting or treatment room to avoid exposing other children.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/3/2016
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