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Varicella; Chicken pox
In most cases, it is enough to keep children comfortable while their own bodies fight the illness. Oatmeal baths in lukewarm water provide a crusty, comforting coating on the skin. An oral antihistamine can help to ease the itching, as can topical lotions. Trim the fingernails short to reduce secondary infections and scarring.
Safe antiviral medicines have been developed. To work well, they usually must be started within the first 24 hours of the rash.
DO NOT GIVE ASPIRIN to someone who may have chickenpox. Use of aspirin has been associated with a serious condition called Reyes Syndrome. Ibuprofen has been associated with more severe secondary infections. Acetaminophen may be used.
Until all chickenpox sores have crusted over or dried out, avoid playing with other children, going back to school, or returning to work.
The outcome is generally excellent in uncomplicated cases. Encephalitis, pneumonia, and other invasive bacterial infections are serious, but rare, complications of chickenpox.
Once you have had chickenpox, the virus usually remains dormant or asleep in your body for your lifetime. About 1 in 10 adults will experience shingles when the virus re-emerges during a period of stress.
Call your health care provider if you think that your child has chickenpox or if your child is over 12 months of age and has not been vaccinated against chickenpox.
Myers MG, Seward JF, LaRussa PS. Varicella-zoster virus. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 250.
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Recommended immunization schedules for children and adolescents--United States, 2008. Pediatrics. 2008;121:219-220.
This article uses information by permission from Alan Greene, M.D., © Greene Ink, Inc.
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