Many of us can remember a time in life when we were perhaps as sick as we will ever be. I’m talking about the time when we had chickenpox and it is something that many children in the last generation had to go through. It is a viral infection that is highly contagious and typically leads to itchy blisters, headaches, fever and fatigue. At one time, it was a common childhood illness but now there is a vaccine that can reduce the possibility of infection.
Many children who are infected can recover quite nicely after a few weeks of illness. There are also times when children may have an especially serious issue when they had chickenpox and it could be deadly. This is especially true if babies, adults, older individuals, pregnant women or anyone with a compromised immune system gets chickenpox. What might surprise you, however, is that many parents do not vaccinate their children and they opt to expose the children to the virus intentionally. Doctors are sounding the warning that doing so is a bad idea.
A local Denver news station investigated some reports that parents were organizing chickenpox parties. They were doing so through private Facebook groups with the intention of helping their children build up of immunity to the virus. In some cases, parents would drive hours and even go into a different state to let their children hang out with an infected person.
The new station was able to obtain a screen grab it which a mother wrote that she has been “swamped with requests” to share the chickenpox virus that her daughter currently had. She even talked about her teenager having blisters and her husband suffering from shingles during this infection.
One popular method of doing this was tenting, they which all of the children were put inside of an intent or other enclosed space to increase the possibility that their child would be infected.
One of the ways of transmitting chickenpox is by breathing in particles so the tenting method tends to work well. It is likely the method that many people use at these parties.
Experts are now sounding the warning about these parties and say it is much safer to have the children get the vaccine.
The reason why parents want to have their children infected before they are an adolescent is because chickenpox can become a serious infection.
The virus that causes chickenpox is also the same virus that causes shingles but the symptoms tend to be different in order children and adults. Shingles are much more painful and the virus may reactivate when the person is older.
A molecular biologist, Lyndsay Diamond told the local news station that the vaccine is a safer alternative that would provide lifelong immunity for the child.
“There’s this emphasis on natural immunity being better than vaccine-delivered immunity. So, the idea [is] that you would get your child chickenpox, and that would give them this sort of life-long immunity. But you can achieve the same thing, or close to, with the vaccine without serious risks.”
Diamond understands that many parents have concerns about giving children the vaccine, including the possibility for allergic reaction. Her argument is that the shot is likely to prevent life-threatening complications from chickenpox, including ammonia and encephalitis.
The CDC reports that chickenpox may also increase the risk of dehydration, sepsis and other bacterial infections. It is a safer choice for the child and also for the community.
“This is all focused on your child, but in reality this is a community issue,” Diamond said. “And so these people then go out into their world. They go to the library, they go to the grocery store, they go to schools where there’s likely to be an immunocompromised person. And then you are risking the health of not only your own child, but the public health.”
Another agency that is urging people to have their kids vaccinated is the Colorado Department Of Health and Environment
Talk to your doctor about the chicken pox vaccine. It's recommended for kids between 12 and 15 months and again between 4 and 6 years. Older kids and adults who didn't have the vaccine or the disease also should get two doses. pic.twitter.com/CIAqBGO9z2
— CDPHE (@CDPHE) October 18, 2018
“Talk to your doctor about the chicken pox vaccine. It’s recommended for kids between 12 and 15 months and again between 4 and 6 years. Older kids and adults who didn’t have the vaccine or the disease also should get two doses,” they tweeted.
People in social media have much to say about these ‘pox parties’. These parties were popular in the 90s and many people are now voicing their opinion.
“Our parents used to do it. But that was before immunizations, when getting it was inevitable. I don’t see why someone would want to expose their kid to it if they didn’t have to now, though.”
“This is absurd. Not because this is a to vaccinate or not to vaccinate argument but because I would NEVER subject my children to getting sick!! No matter what it is … Isn’t it my job to keep (or try at least) my kids safe and healthy? The last thing as their mommy do I ever want to see my children sick and miserable and not feeling well! This breaks my heart…”
Some people also say that the parties might not be a bad idea:
“I don’t see what the big deal is. I did this as a kid. It’s not new or crazy. Exposing kids to non-dangerous viruses just builds their immune system and makes them stronger.”
“It’s usually only dangerous for adults. Kids usually handle it fine.”