Chickenpox: Controlling the Itch
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Chickenpox (varicella) is a common contagious illness caused by the varicella-zoster virus, a type of herpes virus. The first symptoms are typical of other minor infections, such as a fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, headache, and sore throat. The chickenpox rash usually appears 1 or 2 days later.
The chickenpox rash is very itchy and begins with red spots or bumps that change into blisters that are filled with a clear or cloudy liquid and that look like pimples. The blisters eventually break or burst, causing the fluid to leak. As the sores heal, a dry crust forms and protects the skin.
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Scratching a rash from chickenpox is okay as long as I keep my fingernails short.
When my child or I get the rash from chickenpox, I will need a prescription to stop the itching.
The most common complication of chickenpox is a skin infection. When you scratch the blisters that develop from the chickenpox rash, they can become infected from the bacteria on your hands and under your fingernails, especially when the sores break open. If you get a skin infection, you will likely need to see a doctor for a prescription medicine to treat the infection.
Scratching the rash also can cause scars.
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The most common complication of chickenpox is skin infection, which can be caused by scratching the rash.
Although it may cause a skin infection, scratching the chickenpox rash will not make it worse.
Home treatment methods can help reduce the itchiness of the chickenpox rash. Try the following suggestions to make you or your child more comfortable and keep scratching under control.
Warm to cool baths can help relieve itching. Take baths for 20 to 30 minutes as often as needed to stay clean and soothe your itchy skin. Always stay with young children when they are in a bathtub.
You can apply cool compresses to itchy areas.
You can apply soothing lotions that can help dry chickenpox blisters. But talk to your doctor before using lotions that contain antihistamines. You could try lotions with:
Prevent skin irritation
Some general hygiene practices can help prevent skin irritation and scratching.
Lotions or creams that contain antihistamines should not be used for chickenpox. But sometimes antihistamines that are taken by mouth will help relieve itching.
Help children avoid scratching and infection
It can be especially challenging to control a child's scratching. Try the following methods to help keep your child from itching the rash or help prevent skin infection that can result from scratching:
Take general precautions to control itching and to prevent additional problems.
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Baths are a good way to help soothe a chickenpox rash and help control itching.
Give children nonprescription antihistamine medicines and lotions as much as needed to help control itching.
Talk with your doctor
Call your doctor right away if you or your child has a severe headache or constant vomiting, sensitivity to bright light, unusual sleepiness or confusion, trouble breathing, or coughing that won't go away. Call your doctor if you notice signs of skin infection, such as a continued high fever, increasingly reddening or swollen skin, bigger open sores, or unusual discharge or smell from chickenpox sores.
If you are older than age 12 and have not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, call your doctor if you have been in contact with someone who has chickenpox. This is especially important for pregnant women and for people with impaired immune systems, no matter what age they are.
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