Infection in otherwise healthy adults tends to be more severe. Treatment with antiviral drugs (e. g. acyclovir or valacyclovir) is generally advised, as long as it is started within 24–48 hours from rash onset. Remedies to ease the symptoms of chickenpox in adults are basically the same as those used for children. Adults are more often prescribed antiviral medication, as it is effective in reducing the severity of the condition and the likelihood of developing complications. Antiviral medicines do not kill the virus but stop it from multiplying. Adults are advised to increase water intake to reduce dehydration and to relieve headaches. Painkillers such as paracetamol (acetaminophen) are recommended, as they are effective in relieving itching and other symptoms such as fever or pains. Antihistamines relieve itching and may be used in cases where the itching prevents sleep, because they also act as a sedative. As with children, antiviral medication is considered more useful for those adults who are more prone to develop complications. These include pregnant women or people who have a weakened immune system.
Because watery nasal discharge containing live virus usually precedes both exanthem (external rash) and enanthem (oral ulcers) by 1 to 2 days, the infected person actually becomes contagious one to two days before recognition of the disease. Contagiousness persists until all vesicular lesions have become dry crusts (scabs), which usually entails four or five days, by which time nasal shedding of live virus ceases.
Chickenpox consists of an itchy, red rash that breaks out on the face, scalp, chest, back and, to a lesser extent, arms and legs. The spots quickly fill with a clear fluid, rupture and then turn crusty.