What should you do if you get chickenpox? 

Yow Hui Yin
PhD, BPharm (Hons), RPh

 

Don’t panic when you or anyone of your family members contract a case of chickenpox. There are some treatments that can be done at home to relieve the symptoms:   

  • Use calamine lotion, moisturizing cream or cooling gels to relieve the itching from blisters. 
  • Use paracetamol to relieve fever, headache or body aches. NEVER use aspirin in children.  
  • Consider using antihistamine medications to reduce the itchiness.  
  • Avoid scratching the blisters by patting the skin.  
  • Trim your fingernails short to prevent skin infections caused by scratching.  
  • Take lukewarm baths to ease the itching. 
  • Wear loose and soft clothing. 
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

Chickenpox is very contagious. Therefore, the infected person should stay away from school or work until all the blisters have crusted. It usually takes 5 to 7 days to clear up completely.  

However, chickenpox can be dangerous for those who are at higher risk of complications, especially babies (less than 1 year old), pregnant women and people with weakened immune system. This high risk group  should visit their doctors if infected.  

In addition, there is a need for doctor’s advice if the symptoms worsen or signs of chickenpox complications occur, such as extremely high fever (more than 38.9 ⁰C), unresolved fever for more than 4 days, leaking pus from the blisters, difficulty breathing, difficulty walking, abdominal pain, or stiff neck.  

In those serious cases, antiviral medicine will be prescribed by the doctor for the treatment of chickenpox. It will reduce the severity of the symptoms and should be given within the first 24 hours after the rash begins for its maximal effect. Antibiotics will not be prescribed for chickenpox since it is caused by a virus. Nevertheless, antibiotics may be required in some secondary complications caused by bacterial infections (of the blisters).   

Most people get chickenpox just once because they gain immunity towards the virus for life. In some cases, people who have had chickenpox can be reinfected. This happens when the virus becomes active again and causes a skin rash condition known as shingles.  

 

References:  

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/index.html. [Accessed on 26 June 2017]. 
  2. NHS. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Chickenpox/Pages/Introduction.aspx#FAQs. [Accessed on 26 June 2017]. 

 

 

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