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Chickenpox (Varicella): Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Outlook




Diagnosis of Chickenpox
Doctors generally diagnose chickenpox based on the telltale rash. If there's any doubt about the diagnosis, chickenpox can be confirmed with laboratory tests, including blood tests or a culture of lesion samples.

Treatment for Chickenpox
Chickenpox is usually mild and can be treated at home. Most people feel better within a week or so.
Most of the treatments for chickenpox are aimed at decreasing the symptoms, such as severe itching. A non-aspirin analgesic like acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used to decrease the fevers and aches. Children should never be given acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) or aspirin-containing cold medications because of the risks for developing Reye's syndrome (a severe brain disease associated with liver and brain dysfunction and death).
If complications do develop, your doctor will determine the appropriate treatment. Treatment for skin infections and pneumonia may be with antibiotics. Treatment for encephalitis is usually with antiviral drugs. Hospitalization may be necessary.

Prevention of Chickenpox
Chickenpox is highly contagious and can make some people very ill, so it's important to try to avoid spreading it to others.
Some of the things you can do are outlined below.
Stay Home
If you or your child has chickenpox, stay away from nursery, school or work until all of the blisters have dried up and scabbed over.
Avoid contact
Certain people are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they become infected with chickenpox.
These include:
  1. Pregnant women
  2. Newborn babies
  3. People with a weakened immune system (the body's defence system), such as people with HIV, those taking high doses of steroid medication and those having chemotherapy

If possible, try to avoid contact with people from these groups until the blisters have scabbed over and you're no longer contagious.
Clean and wash regularly

Chickenpox can be spread through contact with objects that have been contaminated with the virus, such as toys, bedding or clothing.
If someone in your house has chickenpox, you can help stop it spreading by cleaning any objects or surfaces with a disinfectant and making sure that any infected clothing or bedding is washed regularly.
Travelling on a plane
If you or your child has chickenpox, you may not be allowed to fly until all the blisters have dried and scabbed over.
It's a good idea to inform the airline of your situation and check whether they have a policy about when they allow people with chickenpox to fly.
It's also important to let your travel insurer know if you or your child has chickenpox.
You need to make sure that you'll be covered if you have to delay or cancel your holiday, or if you need to extend your stay until your child is well enough to fly home.

Chickenpox vaccination
There is a vaccination against chickenpox, but it's only given to people who are at a very high risk of spreading the infection to vulnerable people.
These include healthcare workers and people living with someone who has a weakened immune system.

Outlook for Chickenpox

The prognosis of uncomplicated chickenpox is generally good when acquired in childhood, and even in most adults, after the chickenpox rash goes away. Most people never experience chickenpox symptoms again after the first occurrence, and they are immune to other people's chickenpox.


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