Antihistamines for Itching From Chickenpox

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Antihistamines for Itching From Chickenpox

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
diphenhydramineBenadryl
hydroxyzineAtarax

Antihistamines can be taken by mouth or applied directly to the skin. Talk to your doctor before using any antihistamine lotions or creams on yourself or your child. And check with your child's doctor before giving antihistamine pills to your child.

How It Works

Antihistamines block histamines—chemicals that cause itching and other responses to allergic substances.

Why It Is Used

Antihistamines can reduce itching and scratching from chickenpox (varicella) blisters. Scratching of blisters can cause skin infection and scars. Some skin infections can be serious.

How Well It Works

Antihistamines taken by mouth may help prevent you or your child from scratching the rash and blisters, especially during sleep.

Side Effects

Side effects of antihistamines include:

  • Irritability and restlessness (particularly in children).
  • Feeling sleepy and weak.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Difficulty passing urine.
  • Stomach pains.
  • Dry nose, mouth, and throat.

In very rare cases, antihistamines may cause a person to see and hear things that are not there (hallucinations), have tremors, or go into a coma.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Some experts believe that the chemical histamine is not responsible for the itching of chickenpox and that the sedating effect of antihistamines is really what helps the itching.

Some antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, can be purchased without a prescription. If you use them, carefully follow the directions on the label. Antihistamines are not recommended for children younger than 6 years. Check with your child's doctor before you give them to your child. Antihistamines have side effects that can cover up signs of serious complications of chickenpox. Some of these side effects include feeling sleepy and having hallucinations.

Avoid using antihistamines that are applied directly to the skin. You may accidentally apply too much medicine, which can be harmful.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last Revised May 26, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.