How to Treat Chickenpox

Key points

  • The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine.
  • Know when to call a healthcare provider if you have been exposed to chickenpox or shingles.
  • There are steps you can take at home to help relieve chickenpox symptoms and prevent skin infections.
Laughing baby examined by female doctor.

Treatment options

Over-the-counter medications

Do NOT use aspirin in children with chickenpox‎

The use of aspirin in children with chickenpox is associated with Reye's syndrome, a severe disease that affects the liver and brain and can cause death.

If your child has chickenpox, use non-aspirin medications, such as acetaminophen, to help ease fever from chickenpox. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding treatment with ibuprofen if possible. Ibuprofen has been associated with life-threatening bacterial skin infections.

Antiviral medication

Your healthcare provider can advise you on treatment options. Antiviral medication is recommended for people with chickenpox who are more likely to develop dangerous illnesses, including:

  • Otherwise, healthy people older than 12 years of age.
  • People with chronic skin or lung disease.
  • People receiving long-term salicylate therapy or steroid therapy.
  • People who are pregnant.
  • People with a weakened immune system.

There are antiviral medications licensed for the treatment of chickenpox. The medication works best if given as early as possible, preferably within the first 24 hours after the rash starts.

When to contact your healthcare provider

For people exposed to chickenpox or shingles

Call your doctor, especially if you:

  • Have never had chickenpox and is not vaccinated.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Have a weakened immune system (body's ability to fight germs and sickness) caused by disease or medication. Examples:
    • A person with HIV/AIDS or cancer.
    • A person who has had a transplant.
    • People on chemotherapy, immunosuppressive medications, or long-term use of steroids.

For people who have symptoms

Call the doctor, especially if you or your loved one are at risk of serious complications because you:

  • Are less than 1 year old
  • Are older than 12 years olds
  • Are pregnant
  • Have a weakened immune systems


Call the doctor if any of these symptoms develop:

  • Fever that lasts longer than 4 days
  • Fever that rises above 102°F (38.9°C)
  • Rash or any part of the body becomes very red, warm, or tender, or begins leaking pus (thick, discolored fluid). This may indicate a bacterial infection.
  • Difficulty waking up or confused behavior
  • Difficulty walking
  • Stiff neck
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe cough
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Rash with bleeding or bruising (hemorrhagic rash)

At home care

There are several tips you can do at home to help ease chickenpox symptoms and prevent skin infections:

  • Try calamine lotion and a cool bath with added baking soda, uncooked oatmeal, or colloidal oatmeal may help ease some of the itching.
  • Try to keep fingernails trimmed short and minimize scratching to prevent the virus from spreading to others and to help prevent skin infections.
  • If you scratch a blister, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.