Do the sores appear infected?
Are there any sores in the eye?
Is there fever over 103 degrees Fahrenheit?
Does the patient have a severe headache, not relieved by Tylenol?
Have you noticed any seizures, twitching, or unusual behavior?
Is the patient having a severe cough, any trouble breathing, or chest pain?

ACTIVITIES:  Stay indoors, but not necessarily in bed.  Keep the fingernails cut as short as possible.  Bathe with ordinary soap and water.  A starch bath (4 tablespoons of cornstarch to a tub of water) may be soothing two or three times per day if the itching is particularly uncomfortable.  The illness is contagious starting a day or two before the rash appears and continues until all the water blisters have dried up.  The patient may return to school or work after all the scabs have formed.

MEDICATIONS:  Take Tylenol for fever and Benadryl for itching.  Calamine lotion or a paste made from vinegar and baking soda may be applied to all sores (except in the mouth) several times per day to control itching.  If painful sores appear in the mouth, use tea (made twice as strong as usual, with a little sugar) for mouthwash or gargle. Do not take aspirin. Do not use topical steroid creams or steroid ointments.

DIET:  Drink plenty of fluids, especially when there is a fever.  Usually no changes in the diet are needed.


1. Any sores become infected.
2. Sores develop in the eye.
3. Fever runs over 103 degrees.
4. Headache is not relieved by Tylenol.
5. There are seizures, twitching, or unusual behavior.
6. Cough becomes severe, breathing is difficult, or there is chest pain.

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This page was last updated on 19 August 1999.