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Varicella, or chickenpox, is an infection caused by the varicella virus. Chickenpox is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is also spread when you touch the fluid that comes out of chickenpox blisters.



  • Acetaminophen: This medicine decreases pain and fever. You can buy it without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give to your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

  • Antihistamines: These help decrease itching. You can buy them without a doctor's order. Follow directions. These medicines can make your child sleepy.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Help your child rest: Your child should rest as much as possible and get plenty of sleep.

  • Give your child plenty of liquids: This will help prevent dehydration. Ask how much your child should drink each day. Give your child water, juice, or broth instead of sports drinks. He may need an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar your child needs to replace body fluids. You can buy ORS at most grocery stores and pharmacies.

  • Help relieve painful mouth sores: You may be given medicine to put on your child's mouth sores. These may include numbing gels or an antacid solution. Use these medicines before your child eats or drinks. Avoid spicy, salty, hot, or sour foods.

  • Help relieve your child's itching: If your child scratches or picks at his rash, it can cause a bacterial skin infection and scars. The following may help relieve your child's itching:

    • Apply calamine lotion on your child's rash. Follow the directions on the label. Do not use this lotion on sores inside your child's mouth.

    • Give your child baths in lukewarm water. Add ½ cup of baking soda or uncooked oatmeal to the water. Let your child bathe for about 30 minutes. Do this several times a day.

    • Trim your child's fingernails. Put gloves or socks on his hands, especially at night. Wash his hands with germ-killing soap to prevent a bacterial infection.

    • Keep your child cool. The itching can get worse if your child sweats.

  • Avoid the spread of germs: Keep your child away from others. He will need to stay home from school or daycare until all his blisters are crusted over. This usually takes about 1 week.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • The rash spreads to one or both of your child's eyes.

  • The blisters get red, warm, tender, or drain yellow or white fluid.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child is confused or more clumsy than usual.

  • Your child has trouble breathing or is breathing faster than normal.

  • Your child has a seizure.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Varicella (Discharge Care)