Guides you through how to control itching when you or your child has chickenpox (varicella) rash. Includes home treatment with baths, over-the-counter medicines, and lotions. Covers avoiding scratching to prevent infection and scarring.
Chickenpox: Controlling the Itch
When you or your child has
rash that develops can be very uncomfortable.
Although the severity of the rash varies from
person to person, all people with chickenpox need to minimize scratching the
rash to prevent:
Infection from bacteria under your
fingernails or on the skin of your hands.
You can treat itching from the chickenpox rash
at home with baths and certain
over-the-counter medicines and
Check with your child's doctor before giving these
medicines to your child.
How can you reduce itching?
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
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.
Do not use soap, or use only a mild soap.
Soaps that are made for sensitive skin or recommended for babies are usually
You can add soothing ingredients to the bath.
Oatmeal baths such as Aveeno and
Actibath can be bought in most food and drugstores.
You can make
your own oatmeal bath by mixing
1 cup (240 mL) of oatmeal with
3 cups (720 mL) cold water and
adding it to the bath water.
Other ingredients, such as cornstarch
[about 2 cups (480 mL) per
bath] or baking soda can also be added to the bath to help soothe skin.
Blot the skin dry after bathing. Don't rub the
You can apply cool compresses to itchy
Use a soft, absorbent cloth, such as a soft
washcloth. Wet the cloth with cool water and apply the cool compress directly
to the skin.
You can also make an oatmeal paste and apply it to
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:
Phenol, menthol, and camphor, such as
Oatmeal, such as Aveeno Lotion.
Prevent skin irritation
Some general hygiene
practices can help prevent skin irritation and scratching.
Wear loose-fitting cotton
Change clothes and bedsheets on a regular basis.
mild laundry detergent if clothes or linens seem to be irritating the
Lotions or creams that contain
antihistamines should not be used for chickenpox. But sometimes antihistamines
that are taken by mouth will help relieve itching.
Antihistamines taken by mouth may help
prevent you or your child from scratching the rash and blisters, especially
Some antihistamines can be bought
over-the-counter. If you use them, carefully follow
the directions on the label. Check with your child's doctor before you give
them to your child.
Help children avoid scratching and infection
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:
Clean and closely trim the child's
Have a small child wear mittens or clean cotton socks
on his or her hands to prevent scratching. Or use light bandages over open
Wash the child's hands often.
child when you find him or her scratching.
Take general precautions to control
itching and to prevent additional problems.
Avoid getting hot and sweating, because these
trigger itching. Stay out of sunlight. A child can play outside in the
Avoid using antihistamine lotions. You may accidentally
apply too much medicine, which can be harmful. Ingredients to avoid include:
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.