Because chicken pox is usually a benign self-limited disease, treatment is typically aimed at treating symptoms and making the patient more comfortable. In some cases, the antiviral medication acyclovir may be used to treat chicken pox.
Chicken Pox Treatment - Acetaminophen
Patients with chicken pox typically have viral-type, prodromal symptoms such as headache, fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. These symptoms can be treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol) with doses determined by the weight of the patient. Children should never be given aspirin or medications containing aspirin for chicken pox or any other viral illness because of the risk of Reye's syndrome.
Chicken Pox Treatment - Soothing Baths
Frequent baths are sometimes helpful to relieve itching. Adding finely-ground (colloidal) oatmeal such as Aveeno can help improve itching. Oatmeal baths can be prepared at home also by grinding or blending dry oatmeal into a fine powder and adding about 2 cups to the bath water. One-half to one cup of baking soda may also be added to bath water to reduce itching.
Chicken Pox Treatment - Lotions
The most common lotion used for chicken pox is Calamine lotion. This or any similar over-the-counter preparation can be applied to the blisters to help dry them out and soothe the skin.
Chicken Pox Treatment - Antihistamines
Over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines may be used to control severe itching. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is available over-the-counter and hydroxyzine (Atarax) is available by prescription. Both of these antihistamines cause drowsiness and may be helpful at night to help the patient sleep. The newer antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin), certrizine (Zyrtec), and fexofenadine (Allegra) can be used to control itching but do not cause drowsiness.
Chicken Pox Treatment - Preventing Scratching
Scratching increases the risk of secondary bacterial infections. All patients with chicken pox should have their nails trimmed short. In addition, small children may have to wear mittens to reduce scratching.
Chicken Pox Treatment - Acyclovir
Acyclovir (Zovirax) is an anti-viral drug that may be used to treat chicken pox. In uncomplicated cases acyclovir taken 5 times a day has been shown to cause shorter periods of new lesion formation, fewer lesions, and more rapid healing but only if started within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of the rash. Acyclovir has not been shown to decrease the rate of complications in otherwise healthy children who get chicken pox. Oral acyclovir is more strongly recommended for children with underlying skin disease such as eczema, newborns, adults, and smokers since this group is at greater risk for complications. IV acyclovir is used for people with compromised immune systems.
Chicken Pox Treatment - Other Anti-Virals
Currently acyclovir (Zovirax) is the only FDA-approved treatment for chicken pox. However, the antiviral medications valacyclovir (Valtrex) and , used to treat herpes simplex virus infections, have been shown to be effective for chicken pox and are often prescribed.