Calamine lotion for chickenpox - review
Children's health

Calamine lotion for chickenpox skin itchiness

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Calamine lotion for chickenpox is usually considered the first choice in the management of itchiness caused by varicella-zoster virus infection. Calamine lotion is cheap and widely available. In this post, I will review the use of calamine lotion for chickenpox. Summary of this post:

  • What is calamine lotion?
  • Is calamine lotion effective for chickenpox rush?
  • Where to buy calamine lotion for chickenpox
  • Is calamine lotion the best option for management of chickenpox
  • Calamine lotion alternative products
  • Use of antihistamines for chickenpox

What is calamine lotion?

Calamine lotion available in the UK for management of chickenpox symptoms contain a mixture of calamine (15%) and zinc oxide (5%). The recommended use for the lotion is a relief of mild symptoms of sunburn and other minor skin conditions, including itchiness.

Chickenpox is a common viral infection, which usually affects children; however, it may also affect adults. Chickenpox is characterised by an itchy rash, which may appear anywhere in the body. The rash is composed of red spots, which become fluid-filled blisters as the illness progresses. In the final part of the infection, blisters scab over, forming crusted spots. Other symptoms of chickenpox may include high temperature and a general feeling of being unwell.

The elderly, adults and children can use calamine lotion for symptomatic relief of chickenpox. 

How to use calamine lotion for chickenpox?

Apply the lotion to the affected area with cotton wool or pad when required.

Is calamine lotion effective for chickenpox rash?

The use of calamine lotion to control chickenpox caused itchiness is based on historical use. No evidence exists to the effectiveness (or lack of it) of calamine lotion in management of skin itchiness caused by the chickenpox virus. Nevertheless, calamine lotion is licensed in the UK for symptomatic relief of skin conditions including itchiness.

Is calamine lotion the best option for management of chickenpox

Parents of children who are experiencing chickenpox have a range of alternative products, some of which may be more suitable than calamine lotion. The main disadvantage for the use of calamine lotion is possible irritating effect of the powder residue, which is left after lotion dries on the skin.

Where to buy calamine lotion for chickenpox

Calamine lotion can be purchased in most supermarkets, pharmacies and online.  

Care Calamine Lotion 200ml
  • Soothes sunburn,insect bites & stings and other minor skin conditions
  • Soothes itchy skin conditions such as eczema, rashes and chickenpox
  • Suitable for children
 

Calamine lotion alternative options

Calamine aqueous cream

Calamine aqueous cream is the closest alternative to calamine lotion. Both products have the same licensed use: symptomatic relief of mild sunburn and relief from other skin conditions.

The main advantage of aqueous calamine cream over calamine lotion comes from the difference between both formulations. Creams contain higher amounts of oil(s), and therefore are of thicker consistency. Creams provide for extended hydration of the skin, and additionally, aqueous calamine cream does not leave a dry residue. Some children may find it more soothing and less irritating to the skin.

Sale
Care 100 g Aqueous Calamine Cream
  • Care aqueous calamine cream - relieves and soothes
  • Symptomatic relief of mild sunburn
  • Relief from other skin conditions

Care Virasoothe Chicken Pox Relief Cooling Gel

Care Virasoothe Cooling Gel is the only product for chickenpox available in a gel formulation. Advertised as a product which helps to stop chickenpox caused itching. Although advertised as ‘clinically’ proven, the information supporting this claim is not readily available. Virasoothe Cooling Gel can be used in toddlers and children from 6 months of age. Virasoothe Chicken Pox Relief gel can be applied all over the body, including the face. Additional advertised claims include:

  • Support natural healing
  • Reduction of scaring

Sale
Care Virasoothe Chicken Pox Relief Cooling Gel 75g
  • Clinically proven
  • Helps stop the itch - scratch - infection cycle of chickenpox
  • Available in gel or spray format

Glycerin is one of the main ingredients of Virasoothe Cooling Gel. Glycerin is a commonly used ingredient in the cosmetic industry, which helps to ‘hydrate’ the skin by attracting and binding of the water. There is some evidence, which supports glycerin’s effectiveness in the skin barrier repair (Harwood et al., 2020).

The gel formulation of the above product may provide for a ‘cooling’ effect as advertised, however, generally gels dry out much quicker than creams or lotions due to the nature of the formulation.

PoxClin Cool Mousse for chickenpox

PoxClin Cool Mousse is a popular product available online but also in high street pharmacies such as Boots and Lloyds Pharmacy.

As with previously reviewed Virasoothe gel, PoxClin Cool Mousse helps to manage chickenpox symptoms by relieving skin irritation, itching and burning. Additionally, it promotes healing and prevents scarring.

PoxClin Cool Mousse goes ahead of its composition with one of the ingredients (called 2QR-complex) derived from Aloe Vera plant, which has antimicrobial properties. 2QR-complex supposedly reduces the chances of a skin infection, which is a possible complication of chickenpox.

Despite its higher price tag as compared with other products sold for the management of chickenpox PoxClin Cool Mousse is regarded as ‘highly-rated’ and well-priced product on Amazon.co.uk

Poxclin Cool Mousse for Children with Chickenpox 100ml
  • Relieves the symptoms of chickenpox
  • Direct cooling and soothing effect
  • Instant itch Relief

E45 Itch Relief Cream

E45 itch relief cream is used in the management of skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis to control itching and to hydrate the skin. E45 Itch Relief Cream has two active ingredients:

  • lauromacrogols and
  • urea

No specific studies on the effectiveness of E45 itch relief cream have been undertaken, although both urea and lauromacrogols have been used in the management of skin conditions for many years. Several studies confirmed a positive effect of urea on different skin conditions (Celleno, 2018). Lauromacrogol is classified as an anti-pruritic agent, which works as a topical anaesthetic (numb the skin) and stops itchiness fast.

E45 Itch Relief Cream can be used in children and infants over the age of one month. E45 Itch Relief Cream should be applied twice a day.

Sale
E45 Dermatological Itch Relief Cream, 100g
  • Urea helps your skin retain moisture to keep it hydrated
  • Lauromacrogols act as a topical anaesthetic for your skin, helping to relieve the itch
  • Up to 24 hours hydration

Antihistamines for chickenpox

Parent of children over 1 year of age may consider using an antihistamine to help with the management of itchy skin caused by chickenpox. Liquid antihistamine – chlorphenamine (Piriton syrup) is licensed for this indication. Use of chlorphenamine alongside calamine lotion for chickenpox (or other topical products) may offer an additional benefit since chlorphenamine is classified as a drowsy antihistamine, especially when used at night.

Conclusion

Calamine lotion or cream offers a cheap option for the management of itchiness caused by chickenpox. Parents of children with chickenpox have however a wider choice of different topical products which may be equally or even more effective than calamine lotion. Use of an antihistamine alongside one of the topical products may be the most effective treatment choice. Due to the lack of evidence for any of the discussed products, it is hard to make comments on the effectiveness of calamine and other products or to recommend one product as a superior treatment option. 

FAQ

What is the best antihistamine for chickenpox?

In the UK chlorphenamine (Piriton) is licensed to help with skin itchines caused by chickenpox. Piriton is a drowsy antihistamine, which can be used in children and babies over one year of age.

Can I give antihistamine for chickenpox?

Chlorphenamine is an oral antihistamine, which can be given to help with symptoms of itchiness caused by chickenpox infection.

How effective is calamine lotion?

Calamine lotion can provide relief from skin itchiness caused by chickenpox infection, however other products including calamine cream may be more effective. Using an oral antihistamine alongside calamine lotion or cream is potentially the best symptomatic treatment option for chickenpox.

Is sudocrem good for chickenpox?

Sudocrem is not licensed for the treatment of chickenpox and therefore it should not be used for this reason.

References:

Celleno L. Topical urea in skincare: A review. Dermatol Ther. 2018 Nov;31(6):e12690. doi: 10.1111/dth.12690. Epub 2018 Oct 30. PMID: 30378232. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/dth.12690 Accessed on 25/10/2020

Harwood Anne, Ali Nassereddin Karthik Krishnamurthy (2020). Moisturisers. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31424755/ Accessed on 25/10/2020

I am a community pharmacist working in UK. I blog about drugs, health and pharmacy.

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