It's hot and I've got chicken pox
June 8, 2004 10:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm 27, it's the hottest day in England so far, and I've just been diagnosed with chicken pox. Help?
posted by Katemonkey to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My sympathies. I got the chickenpox at 17 during the middle of the summer. The only thing that helped me in the slightest was three or four times a day taking a lukewarm bath with a cupful of oatmeal dissolved in it. Calamine lotion didn't help much with the itching and just made me more uncomfortable in the heat.

You also want to make sure to trim your nails short in case you do go crazy and scratch at a couple. I've still got a couple of pretty nasty scars on my legs.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:20 AM on June 8, 2004

Movies! Orange juice! Good TV shows on DVD! Comics! STAT!
posted by Capn at 11:39 AM on June 8, 2004

Definitely, oatmeal in the bath. I don't know why, but it seems to do the trick. There's a brand of oatmeal bath mix here in the U.S. called Aveeno that has a few other helpful ingredients mixed in.

And since you're 27, your friends are now obliged to dote on you and have no excuse because they're probably all immune already.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:45 AM on June 8, 2004

What everyone else said, and consider getting air conditioning. The only thing worse than being horribly itchy is being horribly itchy and horribly sweaty.
posted by Grod at 11:50 AM on June 8, 2004

yeah, screw calamine lotion. i had pretty much the same experience as crash, but i was just about 15.

i did the lukewarm bath w/ oatmeal in it. get any aveeno skin product you can...they make pouches you poor into baths, etc.

make sure you stay as cool as you can when you go to sleep. the blankets will itch, and you'll be hot, so you can barely sleep, so make sure to have cool washcloths available, etc. cooling down your face and neck are great ways to trick the rest of your body into being cooler.

also, if you ABSOLUTELY must scratch (and let's face it, everybody scratches) scratch your legs! being a girl you're screwed cause every part of you is on display, but that's prolly the part least affected by blemishes. i say this because once you get over the hurdle of trying not to scratch anywhere, but accept that you're going to scratch some places, it makes it easier to avoid scratching your face and torso.

good luck!
posted by taumeson at 11:52 AM on June 8, 2004

two products that I remember helping me when I had chicken pox and that can be bought in pretty much every chemists' in england are: aveeno and oilatum. the former, as I remember comes in sachets of powder, and is basically basking soda-based, whilst oilatum is some kind of oil-based liquid - both are good when added to baths - I remember spending pretty much all day soaking in the tub to relieve the unbearable itching.

hope you feel better soon!
posted by kitschbitch at 11:56 AM on June 8, 2004

you can make oatmeal sachets for the bath [good for any kind of itching really] by putting a cup of oatmeal in a nylon pouch or any sort of fine mesh bag. Just toss it in with the bathwater and smoosh some of the water through it a few times. If the mesh isn't fine enough, the bath is hell to clean, but it's way cheaper than buying the higher end stuff, though I recall Aveeno stuff smells pretty good.
posted by jessamyn at 11:59 AM on June 8, 2004

Oh man, you poor thing! Do you have access to an air conditioner or a good fan? Keep cool. IIRC (its been 20 years) the heat agitated the hell out of the itching and if any of the blisters broke, the perspiration really didn't help. The recommendation for oatmeal baths/soaks were right on.

Try not to scratch. Its difficult, but resist if you can. If you can find manicure gloves (usually a white breathable cotton), wear those to bed. If you can't find the gloves, maybe a pair of clean cotton socks. You're apt to scratch in your sleep without realizing it and the socks/gloves helped us kids not maul ourselves.

Hope you feel better.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:03 PM on June 8, 2004

Poor girl :(

Keep an eye on your fever, if you have one. If it gets too high (past 100F or so) get to a doctor or the hospital. Chickenpox can get complicated if you get it past childhood. My older brother nearly died when he had it at 21.

I don't know if it's available in the UK, but Eucerin makes an anti-itching spray that worked wonders with the itching when my 7 year old foster son had it.

Get well soon!
posted by littlegirlblue at 12:22 PM on June 8, 2004

I'll second the fever warning. I got chickenpox at 28, and went completely delerious with fever. Count on being out of commission for quite a while - I missed out on a couple weeks of work/grad school.

Oatmeal baths were a great solace. Sachets are a great idea - my tub was a gooey mess.
posted by donnagirl at 12:34 PM on June 8, 2004

Aveeno is god. Tea soaks may also help. However, tea can stain your tub so consider using warm, wet tea bag to to sooth a particularly itchy spot.

If you scratch, don't let scabs build up because that facilitates scars. Scratching them off won't help either since it'll just reopen the blister. You can use hydrogen peroxide to disolve the scabs without breaking open the new skin. (Learned that trick from my dermotologist.)

Adult onset chicken pox should be taken seriously. Don't push yourself. Heed the fever warnings.

Finally, for those who have not yet had chicken pox, seriously consider getting vaccinated against it. My son has had the vaccine. I'm still trying to convince my husband to get it.
posted by onhazier at 2:23 PM on June 8, 2004

Holy crap, I thought I was a freak for not getting it until age 18. Another vote for oatmeal baths - I spent a ton of time in the tub.

Also be prepared for possible muscle aches and nausea. I couldn't eat much outside of fruit for the week I had it the worst.
posted by Sangre Azul at 2:25 PM on June 8, 2004

Aside: sachets for the oatmeal bath are a great idea. Once I got a weird skin rash, and a friend recommended oatmeal in the bathwater. Worked great, but the next day when I took a shower, the bath drain had clogged up.
posted by Melinika at 3:43 PM on June 8, 2004

I've never had it and I'm 36. This thread scares the beejesus out of me.
posted by dobbs at 3:46 PM on June 8, 2004

A great pouch for the oatmeal is an old nylon stocking. Just put the oatmeal in the foot and tie it off.
posted by gatorae at 4:39 PM on June 8, 2004

My sympathies. Happened to me aged about 24, one London summer. I don't want to depress you, but, yuck, that was a truly miserable couple of weeks. Hope you get over it quick.

All the above is good advice. I found oatmeal baths (as cool as possible) were a little helpful. My doctor said, "Not much to do but wait it out, I'm afraid. You might find calamine helps, but maybe not." Thanks, Doc. Don't scratch! ...yeah, right. I found that a cool damp cloth placed over wherever I most wanted to scratch at that moment did help with the worst of the itches.

Other than that, a girlfriend keeping me supplied with damp cloths, making me eat and running me baths upon request, whilst stoically tolerating my whining, pouting and general grouchiness probably had most therapeutic value.
posted by normy at 5:24 PM on June 8, 2004

If you want to scratch, simply scratch around the red bumps. It's still pretty satisfying, you just have to be careful about it.
posted by banished at 5:36 PM on June 8, 2004

On the oatmeal front: no need to make a sachet; just put it in a blender, then into the bath. That's essentially all the Aveeno is anyway and it avoids the gooey/drain clog problem. Also helpful: the mentholated Aveeno lotion makes you cool and tingly, and a hydrocortisone cream with aloe can help too. Basically, I have found that creating sensations on your skin that aren't itch, can make the itch fade into the background; sometimes just pinching helps.
posted by dame at 5:45 PM on June 8, 2004

Cooling oatmeal baths and the amino-acid supplement, L-Lysine. Try to go easy on foods that are heavy with the amino-acid Arginine (wheat, chocolate, nuts etc.) as it competes with the former.
posted by Feisty at 7:07 PM on June 8, 2004

Visit your doctor NOW and get a prescription for acyclovir (brand name "zovirax").

It helped immensely when I had chicken pox (at age 18); no fever, only a handful of bumps, and the whole thing was over in a few days.

But you have to get it *immediately*. Several of my siblings didn't get it in time, and their experience was much worse (fever for a week, many bumps, etc.).
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:37 PM on June 8, 2004

Ditto on the fever, Aveeno, and staying cool advice, but here's a trick I picked up during a particularly virulent case of poison ivy: you can smack your bumps instead of scratching them and it'll relieve the discomfort without breaking them open and causing scarring. (Uh, that works best on arms and legs; I wouldn't suggest slapping yourself in the face or anything...)
posted by headspace at 9:34 PM on June 8, 2004

Follow all of the above advice, and in addition, get yourself a cheap and truly addictive computer game to keep your brain focused on something other than your physical state. Various versions of "Civilization" and "Sim City" have gotten me through some nasty extended illnesses. Destroy the source software as part of your back-to-full-health celebration to prevent time waste once you're back on your feet.
posted by clever sheep at 10:01 AM on June 9, 2004

Response by poster: They gave me Acyclovir, and told me to get antihistamines that make me drowsy.

Unfortunately, the acyclovir isn't helping with the breakouts because I went to the doctor once I broke out in twenty million spots -- rather than getting it from someone I knew had chicken pox, it seems as if the Gods reached down and poked me.

Currently, it's focused on my face, my scalp (!!) and my shoulders/chest. The calamine only slightly works. The bicarbonate of soda baths haven't been working. But I got some Aveeno today, so here's hoping.

Mostly, however, I have been sleeping, which is nice.

And headspace's smacking your itches thing always works -- I know this mainly from when my head is itching and I've just painted my nails, but it's working now.

If my face just didn't look like a fucking lump...*cries*
posted by Katemonkey at 10:42 AM on June 9, 2004

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