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Vaccines > Varicella
Varicella Treatment

General questions about the treatment of chickenpox. 


  1. What home treatments are available?
  2. What treatments can my doctor prescribe?
  3. When is it necessary to go to doctor?
  4. After exposure, is there any treatment if can't receive vaccine?

Varicella related pages:

  1. What home treatments are available for chickenpox?

Scratching the blisters may cause them to become infected. Therefore, keep fingernails trimmed short. Calamine lotion and Aveeno (oatmeal) baths may help relieve some of the itching. Do not use aspirin or aspirin-containing products to relieve your child's fever. The use of aspirin has been associated with development of Reye syndrome (a severe disease affecting all organs, but most seriously affecting the liver and brain, that may cause death). Use non aspirin medications such as acetaminophen (commonly known as Tylenol«).

  1. Are there any treatments that my doctor can prescribe for chickenpox?

Your health care provider will advise you on options for treatment. Acyclovir (a medicine that works against herpes viruses) is recommended for persons who are more likely to develop serious disease including persons with chronic skin or lung disease, otherwise healthy individuals 13 years of age or older, and those persons receiving steroid therapy. In order for acyclovir to be effective it must be administered within 24 hours of the onset of the chickenpox rash. Persons with weakened immune systems from disease or medication should contact their doctor immediately if they are exposed to or develop chickenpox. If you are pregnant and are either exposed to, or develop chickenpox, you should immediately discuss prevention and treatment options with your doctor.

  1. When is it necessary to go to the doctor for treatment?

If a fever lasts longer than 4 days or rises above 102 ║F, call your health care provider. Also take note of areas of the rash or any part of your body which become very red, warm, tender, or is leaking pus (thick, discolored fluid) as this may mean there is a bacterial infection. Call your doctor immediately if the individual with chickenpox seems extremely ill, is difficult to wake up or is confused, has difficulty walking, has a stiff neck, is vomiting repeatedly, has difficulty breathing, or has a severe cough.

  1. Is there any preventive treatment available after exposure to chickenpox for susceptible persons who are not eligible to receive chickenpox vaccine?

Yes, varicella zoster immune globulin (VZIG) can prevent or modify disease after exposure (coming into close contact with a case). However because it is costly and only provides temporary protection, VZIG is only recommended for persons at high risk of developing severe disease. Such persons are not eligible to receive chickenpox vaccine. They include:

  • Newborns whose mothers have chickenpox 5 days prior to 2 days after delivery;
  • Children with leukemia or lymphoma who have not been vaccinated;
  • Persons with cellular immunodeficiencies or other immune problems;
  • Persons receiving drugs, including steroids, that suppress the immune system; and,
  • Pregnant women.

VZIG should be administered as soon as possible, but no later than 96 hours after exposure to chickenpox. If you have had a varicella exposure and you fit into one of these groups, contact your doctor.


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This page last modified on February 15, 2001


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