Us older adults know the struggles of chickenpox when we were younger. Remember waking up after having felt bad for days, and oh the itching. Kids walk out to their mom scratching, and her face pales a bit, and she starts looking for the tell-tale rash that is the ticket for a week or two home from school.
And suddenly, these kids get isolated, sent to their rooms to lay around and do nothing. Well, nothing but scratch, and man, do they scratch.
Chickenpox is a viral infection caused by the Varicella-Zoster virus, and noted for it’s god-awful rash that appears on various parts of the body. It appears 10-21 days after being exposed to the virus, and lasts about 5-10 days. While most people know about the rash, there are other symptoms that may appear 1-2 days before the rash, and those are: tiredness, loss of appetite, headache, and fever.
It’s hard enough dealing with a kid that has this that’s older, but a toddler? That’s a whole new world of, “No, don’t scratch!” I’ve seen moms resort to taping gloves to their child’s hands.
And please, no matter what has to get done that day, or what shift has to be worked… do not send a child to school or daycare with chickenpox… it’s a surefire way to infect the whole class, and exposes a whole group of kids to something they shouldn’t have to deal with.
Chickenpox is generally mild in healthy children, but it’s always a good idea to see the doctor to get the chickenpox confirmed, and to get a note for the daycare.
15 Lots Of Rest
This goes without saying, but the best remedy for the tiredness that comes with the first few days of chickenpox, is to rest. Don’t push the child to do any kind of activity. Allow them to lay around, and get as much sleep as possibly. It’s been shown that the more sleep a child gets, the better their body can fight off infections and viruses. So let them rest up. They’ll feel better in no time.
The later stages of chickenpox can also cause a child to be tired. It’s not as common, but it’s definitely possible. Be sure to keep their beds dressed lightly, no heavy blankets, and change the sheets once a day, making sure to wash the sheets that were just removed from the bed immediately. This helps to prevent the spread of the virus.
14 Push Fluids
As is the case with any illness, always be sure to push fluids. This is a basic, any time the child is sick, treatment. It’s important to make sure the child drinks a lot of liquids, especially if they have a fever or are just feeling bad. Even if the child is not hungry, push the fluids.
Drinking lots of liquids has a lot of benefits, including flushing out the system and causing new skin to grow, and keeping the skin hydrated, which reduces the itch that the child feels.
Try and get the child to drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, but if they can’t manage that, just get them to drink as much as they can, and monitor them to make sure they’re urinating regularly. Not urinating often is a sign that they may be getting dehydrated. Dehydration may need to be treated in a hospital with an IV, and that’s never fun for a kid, so avoiding that is always best.
13 Oatmeal Baths
Sometimes nothing helps a rash to keep it from itching quite so much as a refreshing oatmeal bath. Sprinkle finely ground oatmeal, or a colloidal oatmeal bath treatment, into a tub of warm, running water. The oatmeal will make the tub slippery, so make sure to help the child in and out, so they don’t get hurt.
Let them soak and lay in the water for 15 to 20 minutes, and then pat the skin dry with a clean towel. (Never use the same towel twice on a child that has chickenpox. Always wash the towel after each use.)
Sometimes, adding a small cup of baking soda to the bath can also help to further alleviate the itch. Cool sponging can also help. Colloidal oatmeal baths can be bought at the local store and they aren’t that expensive. They also treat other skin conditions, such as eczema.
12 Lysol and Disinfectant
Seems silly, but this is the first line of defense for the rest of the house. Lysol and other disinfectants can kill the germs that spread these viruses around, and can halt them in their infections little tracks. Get together a plan of attack, and get to cleaning.
One of the most germ ridden places is the trash, especially if there are tissues or other items used on the sick little person. Empty that for sure, and disinfect the bins. It’s also time for new toothbrushes, because if any of the liquid from those little pustules got on them, then the infection process can begin anew.
Start with the surfaces, move on to the floors, and wipe down anything that the infected family member and people who have had contact with them have touched. There are sprays, wipes, and even liquids that can be used to clean. And don’t forget to mop, mix the disinfectant liquid with water and start scrubbing.
11 Cool Baths
Medication is not the only option for bringing down the fevers that come with chickenpox. A cool bath can also help to bring a child’s fever down to reasonable levels. Make sure the water doesn’t get cold, and always take the child out if they begin to shiver. After their bath, dress them lightly and use sheets instead of heavy blankets in bed.
Also, cool baths can be used to help the symptoms of itching as well, making this a good non-medicinal remedy for once the rash and blisters come out onto the skin as well. Just be sure to lightly pat the skin dry, do not rub it, as that can break the blisters open and cause the liquid inside it to spread, thus spreading the rash.
Also do not use heavily scented soaps with lots of perfumes either, as this can also irritate the rash and make the itching worse. A basic cool bath with basic, unscented soaps is best.
Chickenpox does not start as a rash, shockingly enough. By the time the kids are showing signs of the rash, they have often had a small case of the crud for days. Chickenpox starts out with a fever, a headache, lack of appetite, and tiredness. To combat the fever and headache, acetaminophen can be used.
This can be bought over the counter, and soothes headaches and other pains, and also brings fevers down. Fevers, however, are a normal process of healing, so unless it has risen to dangerous levels or it is bothering the child, try not to give too much fever reducer.
There is also a children’s aspirin, and while it works for some kids, it’s not recommended to give anymore. Giving any aspirin containing products in children with chickenpox has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, which is a severe disease that affects the liver and brain, and can cause death.
9 Warm/Cool Compresses
Another headache treatment, compresses that are either warm or cold can help alleviate a headache, even in children. Take a rag, and soak it in water. If the child responds better to heat, then heat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds and allow it to get to a more tolerable temperature, then place it on the child’s forehead or on the base of their neck.
If they prefer cold, soak a rag in water, and place it in the freezer. After about 10 minutes, take it out, and move it around to make it more flexible, since it’ll be frozen. Put it on the forehead or on the base of the neck, same as the heat compress.
Some kids respond better to heat, others to cold, so figuring out which works best will be trial and error to be honest. Just keep trying. If the compresses don’t help, there’s always acetaminophen to alleviate the pain a bit.
This one will need a correct dosage from the doctor. Some people find that Benadryl or other antihistamines can really help to alleviate the symptoms of the itch in kids that have chickenpox or other rashes. It also can help alleviate the itching and swelling in the rash.
The medicine can definitely knock a child out though, so make sure they can rest once they take them. Some antihistamines can be bought over the counter, but others will require a prescription, and for a toddler, definitely get advice on dosing.
Antihistamines taken orally are ok and can be helpful, but do not use creams or lotions that have antihistamines in them. Always stick to the oral antihistamines unless the doctor has been consulted and they have given the ok to do the lotion instead. Antihistamines taken orally can help prevent the child from scratching the rash and the blisters, especially since some kids will scratch in their sleep.
7 Calamine Lotion
When we were kids, this was probably one of the top remedies for chickenpox. Remember that liquid, pinkish lotion that the parents would put on just about any rash that was itchy? It smelled a bit like menthol? Well, that’s calamine lotion, and it’s a classic chickenpox remedy, and it works. It’s been used to treat chickenpox in hospitals since the 1800s, so it has a long track record of working well and helping to relieve the pain and itch.
Calamine lotion contains zinc oxide, and provides a temporary, soothing cooling effect on the skin. But be warned: It’s also pretty messy. When it dries up, it tends to crust over and flake off onto everything. But the mess is worth it to relieve the pain and itch from the chickenpox. It can be bought just about anywhere that they sell medicines, such as a CVS or even a Walmart.
6 Prevent Scratching
Oh man I cannot stress this enough… Try all that is necessary to keep those little nails and fingers from digging and scratching. The more they scratch, the more this stuff spreads, and it can be a never ending cycle. These spots itch beyond belief, as anyone who has ever had the pleasure of having them can attest to. (Former chickenpox kid, right here.)
The itching and scratching cycle has to be broken, because the scratching can lead to scarring.
Trim the child’s nails to keep them clean, and to prevent them from having as much of a chance of breaking open those blisters. Another trick that works is to place gloves, mittens, socks, or winter gloves over the child’s hands, during the day when they’re not doing much, and at night, to prevent scratching. Even oven mitts work if that’s all that’s in the house. Just don’t let them scratch!
5 Isolate The Child
Chickenpox is unbelievably contagious, so it’s very important not to send the child to school when they have it. This is definitely one time when the child needs to stay at home. Once the spots are noticed, call the child’s school and inform them right away, in case they need to take protocols to keep the other classmates from getting sick.
The only place the child needs to go is to the doctor’s office for a diagnosis and a note for school. They shouldn’t even go to the store, because they can infect people.
Keep kids who have chickenpox away from newborn babies, pregnant women, and anyone in the hospital or who has a weak immune system, such as patients who are going through chemotherapy or radiation, or people who have HIV/AIDS.
These groups of people can get some pretty serious complications if they catch chickenpox. This is the time to stay at home and put Paw Patrol on Netflix, and let them relax.
4 Cooling Gels
There is another really good treatment to relieve the itch. Cooling gels such as Virasoothe are pleasant to use, and they don’t sting or hurt when applied. They help to hydrate the skin and cool itchy rashes by drawing the moisture in them up to the surface. It also lessens the urge to scratch blisters and encourages healing by reducing the infection.
It reduces long-term scarring, and promotes sleep, because when the child is more comfortable, they sleep better.
The gel can be applied to the body and the face, which is really good. It’s available in pharmacies, and it’s suitable for children ages 6 months and up. When mom is more interested in non-medicinal types of remedies, this is probably more of a happy medium, since it’s not a medicine per-say, but it also has things in it to help with the itch.
3 Keep The Child Cool
As even an adult can tell you, hot, sweaty skin is never fun, even when the person isn’t sick. So it’s no shock that kids who have chickenpox would get more irritated and uncomfortable if they get all sweaty and nasty. Make sure to dress them in loose, light fitting clothes, preferably cotton clothing, and again keep the bedding to a minimum, so they don’t get too hot.
Another thing to avoid is salty foods. This can do a plethora of things, from make sore throats feel worse, to making the person retain water and get hot easier, to dehydrating the child. Sugar-free ice pops can help to perk a child up and cheer them up, and can also soothe a sore throat and help with hydration. Also, give them soup. It’s nutritious and easy to swallow, but don’t serve it too hot.
2 Antiviral Treatments
For children and adults with weakened immune systems, sometimes the doctor will think that more intervention is necessary. In those cases, they’ll prescribe an antiviral medication to help them to fight off the virus easier. It’s used after the child has shown the signs of chickenpox. If the child is healthy, they won’t need this medication.
This is solely for the little fighters who have weak immune systems or other conditions making them immunocompromised.
One medication often prescribed is acyclovir, and it’s pretty effective. There is no solid proof whether antivirals can help prevent or reduce the chances of the person having complications from the chickenpox, but it is proven to help them get over it a lot easier. If the toddler has a weak immune system or is otherwise immunocompromised, definitely see a doctor about getting some antivirals as soon as possible.
Yes, for the most part, this virus can be totally prevented. All with the administration of one little shot. The chickenpox vaccine is a shot that can protect nearly anyone who gets the vaccine from getting chickenpox. That’s why chickenpox is so rare nowadays, when just 10 years ago it was common: We have a vaccine for it now. The virus is made from a live, but heavily weakened, virus.
Most states require that children who enter child care, school, or even colleges to show evidence of immunity to chickenpox, either by having had the illness or by documentation of having the vaccine. The vaccine is offered as a single shot Varicella vaccine, and as a combo shot with the MMR, called the MMRV vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella.
Kids should get their first vaccination for Varicella at ages 12-18 months of age. They then get a booster at ages 4-6 years of age. The vaccine is about 98% effective against chickenpox, with about 2% developing a mild case, with no more than 5 to 6 blisters total.