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 (Privigen). 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 may not be approved or appropriate for all cases. In some instances, 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.

Treating complications

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.

Feb. 28, 2016
  1. Chickenpox (varicella). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
  2. Types of chickenpox vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
  3. Papadakis MA, et al., eds. Viral and rickettsial infections. In: Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2015. 54th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2015. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
  4. Pregnancy complications. March of Dimes. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
  5. Longo DL, et al., eds. Varicella-zoster virus infections. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015.  Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
  6. Chickenpox (varicella). Merck Manual Professional Version. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Health Information for International Travel. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press; 2016. Accessed Dec. 23, 2015.
  8. Zostavax (prescribing information). Kenilworth, New Jersey: Merck & Co., Inc.; 2015. Accessed Jan. 22, 2016.
  9. Privigen (prescribing information). Kankakee, Illinois: CSL Behring LLC; 2016. Accessed Jan. 22, 2016.