My four year old recently caught chicken pox (two weeks before we went to Disneyland!). As she's my third child, I had a pretty good idea of how to keep her comfortable. I did Google for advice, and so many advice pages talk about how to quickly "dry out" the spots - the problem is when you dry something out it makes the skin even itchier, and not just that, if a scab dries too quickly it dramatically increases the chances of scarring.
My little one was very lucky to have only three spots on her face, her scalp was covered, in her ears, behind her ears, chest and back and unfortunately in her girly bits as well. She didn't have much on her arms and legs. I did have calamine lotion, just like my eldest she hated it and to be honest I'm not a fan, so we didn't use it. Here is what I did use. Her scabs were practically gone in a week, we're now four weeks on, and while she still has a few crusts in her scalp, her body only has the tiniest of pink dots left over, and as far as I can tell she has no indented scarring anywhere on her face or body.
- Firstly DO NOT use an ibuprofen based medicine for pain, pharmacists are now highly against this as it can cause a lot of inflammation and apparently causes the pox to go deeper. For pain relief and to control a fever, stick with a paracetamol based medicine only.
- Antihistamine - This is a must, an oral antihistamine to help prevent the itch. If you're not sure what you can use, visit your local pharmacy - we used Piriton. Follow the directions given on the box.
- Topical Treatment - I used Eurax which contains a whole lot of ingredients I wouldn't normally use, but it stopped the itching, was a lot more pleasant to use than calamine lotion and because it's a cream base with paraffin and beeswax I also feel this helped to stop the spots prematurely drying out. We usually used it morning and evening before bed. I bought this from my local supermarket, but you'd also find it in most chemists.
- Soothing, topical pain relief - St John's Wort Oil is known for helping with nerve pain as well as being anti-inflammatory and a skin healer. I applied this once a day in between the Eurax. The tincture I used was infused in sweet almond oil. Be sure to buy the topical oil and not the oral tincture. You can get this in most health shops.
- Bathing - Keeping the skin clean is important but I avoided any soaps. I bought organic rolled oats from my local health shop, popped roughly a cup full in a sock and tied it over the tap while the bath filed, oats are very soothing on the skin, I also applied a couple of drops of lavender and tea tree to the filled bath as both are antiviral and antibacterial. I bathed her every evening, not too long because you don't want the spots to get too soggy, but enough that it offered relief.
- You may have heard about using bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda). Bicarb is an alkaline with a high PpH. When you use something that increases the pH of the skin this can create a breeding ground for bacteria, this is why skincare is pH balanced. While I appreciate many people have found it soothed the itching, this is the reason I didn't use it.
- DO NOT scrub the spots, pick at them or remove them - they must fall off naturally, even if most of it is coming away and is held on by a tiny thread, leave it until it falls off.
Continue with the above as long as needed. Once the scabs have fallen off you can either continue with the St John's Wort Oil or replace with a Vitamin E oil or cream to help nourish the skin and help the marks to fade. We've opted for a cream, which I massage in every evening after her bath before bed. Continue this until you feel the skin has fully healed with no scarring.
Some people can experience a sensitivity to Vitamin E or any of the topical products above so you may want to patch test on the inner am or wrist before using all over.
The main thing is to try and teach your child not to scratch. We found night time worse, I had her sleep with me so that I could stop her scratching her skin, administer the antihistamine and apply more cream if needed. Use only clean, cotton bedcovers and nightware, no synthetic fabric.
Sadly when a pock scar is created, there isn't much that can be done to reduce it so it really is important to look after the skin while the chicken pox are active.