Treatment for Chickenpox & Shingles

With chickenpox, an important part of treatment is symptomatic relief from itching. Calamine® or similar anti-itching lotions can be applied. Oatmeal baths and aloe vera gel offer some relief. Refrigerating the lotions can aid relief because the cool sensation helps control the itching. It is important to keep fingernails short, especially in young children, to minimize potential scarring and secondary bacterial infection from scratching.

Treatment options for shingles include oral medication such as valacyclovir (Valtrex) and famciclovir (Famvir). For severe infections and in immunosuppressed patients, intravenous medication may be administered in the hospital.

Initiating oral treatment within 72 hours of the onset of shingles can minimize pain and shorten the course of the outbreak. Sometimes pain medication is prescribed.

Although the drugs used to treat shingles can lessen the severity and duration of the condition, approximately 20 percent of patients diagnosed with shingles later develop a painful chronic condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 02 Sep 2000

Last Modified: 04 Sep 2015