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Prevention & Treatment

Español: Prevención y tratamiento

Prevention

The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine. Children, adolescents, and adults should have two doses of chickenpox vaccine.

Chickenpox vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing the disease. Most people who get the vaccine will not get chickenpox. If a vaccinated person does get chickenpox, it is usually mild—with fewer blisters and mild or no fever. The chickenpox vaccine prevents almost all cases of severe disease.

For more information about chickenpox vaccine, see Vaccination.

For people exposed to chickenpox, call a health care provider if the person

  • has never had chickenpox disease and is not vaccinated with the chickenpox vaccine
  • has a weakened immune system caused by disease or medication; for example,
    • People with HIV/AIDS or cancer
    • Patients who have had transplants, and
    • People on chemotherapy, immunosuppressive medications, or long-term use of steroids
  • is pregnant

Treatments at Home for People with Chickenpox

There are several things that can be done at home to help relieve the symptoms and prevent skin infections. Calamine lotion and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching. Keeping fingernails trimmed short may help prevent skin infections caused by scratching blisters.

Over-the-counter Medications

Baby getting vaccinated.

Use non-aspirin medications, such as acetaminophen, to relieve fever from chickenpox.

Do not use aspirin or aspirin-containing products to relieve fever from chickenpox. The use of aspirin in children with chickenpox has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a severe disease that affects the liver and brain and can cause death.

When to Call the Health Care Provider

For people with chickenpox at risk of serious complications, call a health care provider if the person

  • is older than 12 years of age
  • has a weakened immune system
  • is pregnant
  • develops any of the following:
    • fever that lasts longer than 4 days
    • fever that rises above 102°F (38.9°C)
    • any areas of the rash or any part of the body becomes very red, warm, or tender, or begins leaking pus (thick, discolored fluid), since these symptoms may indicate a bacterial infection
    • extreme illness
    • difficult waking up or confused demeanor
    • difficulty walking
    • stiff neck
    • frequent vomiting
    • difficulty breathing
    • severe cough

Treatments Prescribed by Your Doctor for People with Chickenpox

Your health care provider can advise you on treatment options. Antiviral medications are recommended for people with chickenpox who are more likely to develop serious disease including

  • otherwise healthy people older than 12 years of age
  • people with chronic skin or lung disease
  • people receiving steroid therapy
  • some groups of pregnant women

Acyclovir, an antiviral medication, is licensed for treatment of chickenpox. For more information, see Acyclovir Treatment. Other antiviral medications that may also work against chickenpox include valacyclovir and famciclovir.

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