What are the treatments for chicken pox in adults?

Updated March 23, 2017

Chickenpox, once a common childhood sickness, is becoming increasingly rare due to the now widely used varicella vaccine. Children are exposed to chickenpox less and therefore bring it home to their parents less.

But that doesn't mean chickenpox is extinct. For children, chickenpox is uncomfortable. For adults, it can be unbearable. How does an adult make it through?


Chickenpox is the sickness caused by the varicella virus. Like most viral infections, there's not much to do but to let the sickness take its course. Keep in mind, if it all goes well, the patient only will have it once thanks to antibodies the body creates.

One of the few really dangerous parts of chickenpox is fever. Not only is it uncomfortable, but adults are prone to higher fevers with this particular disease. Just like mom said, drink lots of fluids.

Over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers are the best treatments. Adults over age 20 can use aspirin. Otherwise, Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, Motrin are all effective products for fever reduction. If fever persists beyond three days or rises above 103 Fahrenheit, see a doctor.


The pox in chickenpox are red blister-sores that swell up, usually burst and then crust over. And if that isn't attractive enough, they itch--sometimes like crazy. Besides the sheer discomfort and sometimes soreness they cause--they can also lead to scarring and infection if scratched or cut. It's important to let the pox go through its cycle--and to be kept clean.

Antihistamine-based creams are a good way to deal with itching. There's always the traditional pink Caladryl that's been around for generations. Benedryl creams are also a good, strong topical antihistamine. If the itching is very bad--which it often is for adults--ask a doctor about oral antihistamines such as Benedryl capsules and prescription medications.

Oatmeal baths are another good way to reduce itching--and also to keep clean.

Severe Cases and Complications

For adults who make have other health complications--such as heart conditions or pregnancy--a doctor may administer antiviral medications such as Zovirax or Foscavir to speed the chickenpox along. And while at-risk patients should consult a physician at the first exposure to chickenpox, adults in general should see a physician immediately upon seeing signs of chickenpox.

Encephalitis and pneumonia are possible complications of chickenpox in adult patients. Determining which medications and topical treatments to use should be done in consultation with a physician.

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About the Author

Eric Feigenbaum started his career in print journalism, becoming editor-in-chief of "The Daily" of the University of Washington during college and afterward working at two major newspapers. He later did many print and Web projects including re-brandings for major companies and catalog production.