Review of calamine lotion for chickenpox

Is Calamine lotion for chickenpox the BEST?

Calamine lotion for chickenpox is usually considered the first choice in the management of itchiness caused by the infection. Calamine lotion is cheap and widely available. In this post, I will review the use of calamine lotion for chickenpox. We will also look at calamine alternative products.

What is calamine lotion?

Calamine lotion which is available in the UK for the management of chickenpox symptoms contains 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.

Calamine lotion is commonly used to help relieve the itching and discomfort associated with chickenpox. While it does not directly treat the chickenpox virus itself, it can provide some relief from the symptoms, particularly the itching. When applied to the affected areas, it can help reduce itching and inflammation, providing temporary relief from the discomfort associated with chickenpox.

Calamine lotion: different brands

Chickenpox is a common viral infection, which usually affects children; however, less commonly, it may also affect adults. Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, and it typically results in a rash with itchy, fluid-filled blisters. Chickenpox is also characterised by a rash, which may appear anywhere in the body. The itching can be quite intense and may lead to scratching, which can increase the risk of infection and scarring.

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.

Here’s how to use calamine lotion for chickenpox

  • Shake the bottle well before use.
  • Wash and dry your hands and the affected areas of the skin.
  • Apply a thin layer of calamine lotion to the itchy areas using a cotton ball or your fingertips. Avoid rubbing it in vigorously.
  • Allow the lotion to dry on the skin, which will create a protective layer.
  • Reapply as often as needed to help alleviate itching.

It’s important to note that while calamine lotion can help with the symptoms, it does not speed up the healing process or cure chickenpox. The virus will run its course, and the blisters will eventually scab over and heal on their own.

If you or someone you know has chickenpox, it’s essential to practice good hygiene, keep the affected person’s nails trimmed short to minimize scratching, and avoid scratching the blisters as much as possible to prevent secondary infections. If there are concerns about the severity of chickenpox or if complications arise, it’s best to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional.

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 support the effectiveness (or lack of it) of calamine lotion in the management of skin itchiness caused by the chickenpox virus. Nevertheless, calamine lotion is licensed in the UK for symptomatic relief of skin conditions such as itchiness.

Is calamine lotion the best option for the 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 of the use of calamine lotion is the possible irritating effect of the powder residue left after the 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
  • Mildly anitseptic
 

Calamine lotion alternative options

Management of chickenpox fever

Paracetamol is generally considered safe and is commonly used to manage fever and discomfort associated with chickenpox. It can help reduce fever and alleviate mild pain associated with the infection.

Ibuprofen (Nurofen) should not be used in chickenpox. Read more about use of ibuprofen in chickenpox.

Calamine aqueous cream as a calamine lotion alternative

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 Aqueous Calamine Cream 100, Relieves Mild Sunburn and other Minor Skin Conditions
  • Soothing action
  • Mild astringent to relieve mild sunburn and other minor skin conditions
  • Apply liberally to dry skin
  • Calamine 4.0 percent, Zinc Oxide 3.0 percent
  • Suitable for children, adults and elderly

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 Chickenpox Relief Cooling Gel 75g, Cools and Soothes Skin
  • 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 the water. There is some evidence, which supports glycerin’s effectiveness in 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.

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 the 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 a ‘highly-rated’ and well-priced product on Amazon.co.uk

Sale
PoxClin CoolMousse Chickenpox Treatment for Children, Relieve Symptoms and Itch of Chickenpox, Natural Ingredients, 100 ml
  • PoxClin CoolMousse for kids: Helps relieve the symptoms of chickenpox. Relieves the itch and helps prevent scars
  • Direct cooling and soothing effect: Offers instant relief from itching, burning and sensitivity associated with chickenpox
  • Contains natural ingredients: Helps to cool and protect the skin whilst soothing any irritation. Helps prevent scar tissue forming. Contains camomile
  • Promotes healing: Our gentle formula contains the 2QR-complex, a patented bio-active bacterial blocker, to reduce the chances of infection
  • Easy and hygienic to apply: With no mess. Light mousse with a pleasant natural fragrance. Dispenser contains 100ml PoxClin CoolMousse

Dermacool Menthol Aqueous Cream 0.5%

As the name suggests Dermacool is a combination cream containing 0.5% menthol in aqueous cream. Dermacool comes in different strengths, 0.5%, 1% and 2% of menthol in aqueous cream. The 0.5% cream is used on children between 2-12 years.

Dermacool soothes and cools, dry, itchy and irritated skin. Menthol is a natural compound derived from peppermint or other mint oils. It has a cooling sensation when applied to the skin, which can provide a soothing and refreshing effect.

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 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 the 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 can be applied twice a day.

E45 100g Itch Relief Cream
  • DUAL ACTION TREATMENT – For itching and skin irritation caused by dry skin conditions, eczema, itchy dermatitis, pruritus, scaling skin conditions
  • ANTI-ITCHING – E45 Itch Relief Cream contains an anti-itch ingredient, Lauromacrogols, which act as a topical anaesthetic and soothes the itch caused by eczema, dermatitis, pruritus and other dry skin conditions
  • MOISTURISING - E45 Itch Relief Cream is formulated with Urea, a moisturiser found naturally within the skin so will soothe your skin and leave it feeling calm and comfortable
  • NON-GREASY – Perfume free and dermatologically tested
  • HOW TO USE - Apply to the affected skin 2 times daily, if symptoms persist, consult your doctor, E45 Itch Relief Cream for pruritus, eczema, dermatitis, and scaling skin conditions, always read the label

Using Piriton for chickenpox alongside calamine lotion

Parents 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. The 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. The 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.

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 27/07/2023

Harwood Anne, Ali Nassereddin Karthik Krishnamurthy (2020). Moisturisers. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31424755/ Accessed on 27/07/2023

 

I am a qualified pharmacist working in an independent pharmacy in the UK.
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