According to University of Alabama Medical School Professor Richard Whitely in the 2008 edition of “Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine,” chicken pox strikes 90 percent of people before the age of 15 1. Usually, says Whitely, the disease manifests itself with a characteristic blistering skin rash, low-grade fever and sense of malaise. However, adults generally experience more severe symptoms and face greater risk of chicken-pox-related complications such as pneumonia and eye, heart and kidney problems. Antiviral drugs can reduce the severity and duration of chicken pox, as well as decrease the risk of complications 4. Adults who never have had chicken pox, then contract it, should practice good skin hygiene and make an appointment with their doctor to discuss antiviral drugs 4.
Contact Your Doctor
Contact your primary care doctor and request an urgent appointment. Have your personal calendar, a pen and a piece of paper handy when you call in case you need to jot down any instructions.
Write down the names and doses of any medications you take regularly, including over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements. Women of childbearing age should note the date of their last menstrual period and be prepared to take a pregnancy test.
Arrive at the appointment at least 10 minutes early, keeping affected skin covered to avoid transmitting the infection to others. Bring your list of medications, insurance card, other forms of ID and a method of payment with you.
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Ask whether antiviral drugs such as acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir are right for you.
Fill your prescription immediately if you receive one. Ask your pharmacist for any tips or recommendations.
Take the medication as directed. Always complete the entire course, even if your symptoms subside before you have finished all of your medication.
Keep Skin Clean
Run a bath with tepid water. Get in.
Clean unaffected skin with mild soap. Drizzle unaffected skin with soapy water. Chicken pox lesions rupture easily, so rubbing or touching increases your risk of scarring.
Rinse with fresh water.
Dry unaffected areas with a clean towel. Allow affected areas to air dry, or lightly pat dry. Bathe at least once daily.
Baths are better than showers for people with chicken pox because soaking helps relieve skin irritation, and the fatigue from the illness likely would make it more difficult to stand up and breathe easily in a steamy shower.
According to University of North Carolina dermatologist Dr. Craig Burkhart in the 2008 edition of “Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine,” topical astringents can help relieve itching and skin swelling. The American Medical Association recommends adding two cups of plain oatmeal to bath water. Whitely recommends over-the-counter aluminum acetate powder or solution. Oral drugs may help severe symptoms. Over-the-counter antihistamines such as diphenhydramine often provide significant relief from itching. However, antihistamines often produce drowsiness, so you should not take them prior to driving or performing other activities that require you to remain alert. For pain or fever due to chicken pox, the Mayo Clinic recommends acetaminophen.
Notify your doctor immediately if you suspect you may be pregnant. Chicken pox during pregnancy can adversely affect the fetus. Long fingernails increase the risk of scarring and promote secondary bacterial infections to affected skin. Clipping nails at the onset of a chicken pox infection may reduce this risk.
Arrive at the appointment at least 10 minutes early, keeping affected skin covered to avoid transmitting the infection to others. Baths are better than showers for people with chicken pox because soaking helps relieve skin irritation, and the fatigue from the illness likely would make it more difficult to stand up and breathe easily in a steamy shower. Adults who never have had chicken pox, then contract it, should practice good skin hygiene and make an appointment with their doctor to discuss antiviral drugs 4.
- "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine (23rd Edition)"; Dr. Anthony Fauci et al.; 2008
- "Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition)"; K. Wolff et al; 2008
- Journal of the American Medical Association: Patient Information Page--Chicken Pox
- Mayo Clinic: Chicken Pox Treatments and Drugs
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