Chicken Pox

Chickenpox is caused by a virus infection. The virus causes fever, rash and itching. Some children have a sore throat and poor appetite. The rash begins as small red bumps and then turns into water-filled blisters. At the end of the illness, the blisters dry up and crust over to form scabs. The scabs rarely leave scars. The rash can appear all over the skin, scalp, mouth, throat and vagina. The illness usually lasts for 5 to 7 days. The following are steps you can take to help your child feel better.

For the itching
Give your child lukewarm baths. Aveeno powder or baking soda added to the bath water may feel good.
Try putting calamine lotion on the blisters.
After checking with your doctor, give an antihistamine medicine, such as Benadryl by mouth. Follow the directions on the bottle for how much to give and how often to give it.

For the fever
Give acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra) for temperature over 101 degrees.
Do not give aspirin since it can cause brain, liver and kidney problems.
Give your child plenty of "liquid" foods, such as juice, popsicles and jello.

To prevent an infection of the skin caused by scratching
Cut your child's fingernails short.
Keep your child's hands clean by washing them with soap and water.
Cover your child's hands with socks to prevent scratching if the itching is very bad.

What else do I need to know and do about chickenpox?
Chickenpox is very contagious. The virus spreads through the air from the throat or skin rash of someone who has the illness. It is hard to prevent the spread of chickenpox. People are infectious 1 to 2 days before the rash appears and stay infectious until the blisters form scabs. It takes 7 to 21 days for a person to get chickenpox once they have been exposed.
Keep your child way from anyone who has not had chickenpox or the vaccine.
Pregnant women, young babies, persons taking steroids, persons being treated for cancer, or persons with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS ) can get very sick if exposed to chickenpox.
Your child may return to school when all the blisters have crusted over. This should take about 7 to 10 days.
A vaccine is now availble for healthy persons who have not had chickenpox.
Talk to your health care provider about this for the other members of your family.

When should I call the doctor?
Call the doctor if you have questions or if your child has any of the following:

  • Temperature over 104 degrees
  • Vomiting that will not stop
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever lasting more than 4 days
  • Seizures
  • A bad cough
  • Severe itching
  • Trouble waking up
  • Bad stomach pains
  • Pus draining from the blisters

Source: Mosby's Pediatric Patient Teaching Guides, Mosby-Year Book, Inc.

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