In otherwise healthy children, chickenpox typically requires no medical treatment. Your doctor may prescribe an antihistamine to relieve itching. But for the most part, the disease is allowed to run its course.
If you're at high risk of complications
For people who have a high risk of complications from chickenpox, doctors sometimes prescribe medications to shorten the duration of the infection and to help reduce the risk of complications.
If you or your child falls into a high-risk group, your doctor may suggest an antiviral drug such as acyclovir (Zovirax) or another drug called immune globulin intravenous (IGIV). These medications may lessen the severity of the disease when given within 24 hours after the rash first appears. Other antiviral drugs, such as valacyclovir (Valtrex) and famciclovir (Famvir), also may lessen the severity of the disease, but they have been approved for use only in adults. In some cases, your doctor may recommend getting the chickenpox vaccine after exposure to the virus. This can prevent the disease or lessen its severity.
Don't give anyone with chickenpox — child or adult — any medicine containing aspirin because this combination has been associated with a condition called Reye's syndrome.
If complications do develop, your doctor will determine the appropriate treatment. Treatment for skin infections and pneumonia may be with antibiotics. Treatment for encephalitis is usually with antiviral drugs. Hospitalization may be necessary.
March 26, 2013
- Chickenpox (varicella). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/overview.html. Accessed Dec. 25, 2012.
- Policy statement — Prevention of varicella: Update of recommendations for use of quadrivalent and monovalent varicella vaccines in children. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2011-1968. Accessed Dec. 25, 2012.
- Papadakis MA, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2013. 52nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=1. Accessed Dec. 25, 2012.
- Pregnancy complications. March of Dimes. http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/complications_chickenpox.html. Accessed Dec. 25, 2012.
- Chickenpox. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/print/infectious_diseases/herpesviruses/chickenpox.html. Accessed Dec. 25, 2012.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Dec. 25, 2012.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Health Information for International Travel. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press; 2012. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-3-infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/varicella-chickenpox.htm. Accessed Dec. 25, 2012.
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