The chickenpox vaccine is recommended for your child after 12 to 15 months old and again between 4 and 6 years old.

Chickenpox is caused by a virus. The virus takes about 10 to 21 days to develop from the time of exposure.

The main symptom of chickenpox is a blistering rash. Your child can easily spread chickenpox up to 48 hours before getting the rash until all the blisters have scabs (five to seven days).

How to make your child more comfortable

  • Clip your child's fingernails. This will keep your child from scratching the itchy rash. The sores can become infected or leave scars.
  • Put anti-itch cream (such as Calamine® lotion) or powder (such as Aveeno®) on the rash. Do not use Caladryl® or topical Benadryl®.
  • Give your child Benadryl liquid by mouth to help relieve the itch. Follow the package instructions.
  • Let your child soak in a lukewarm bath with oatmeal or baking soda. This may help relieve the itch.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®) for pain or discomfort. Follow the package instructions for your child's weight or age.

Do not give your child aspirin. This can cause a serious condition called Reye's syndrome. It can lead to coma or death.

Antibiotics will not help treat chickenpox. The virus will have to run its course.

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider for an appointment if you think your child has chickenpox. The diagnosis needs to be confirmed by your health care provider.

Call if your child has:

  • a chickenpox pimple that is becoming big or has a tender red area around it
  • problems breathing
  • bad cough
  • fever that lasts more than three days
  • confusion
  • repeated vomiting

Most children receive no specific medicine for chickenpox.

Treatment with an antiviral medicine may be needed if your child with the chickenpox is older, has a severe case, has a weakened immune system, or is the second sibling in the same household with the chickenpox.

Related resources

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022