Dr. Mallika's 5 Fast Facts: Why Kids Need the Chickenpox Vaccine
A new trend finds some parents giving their children candy coated with chickenpox germs in an attempt to build their immunity without a chickenpox vaccine. Here, Everyday Health's medical director explains why that's not a good idea — and why it's so important to vaccinate your kids.
FRIDAY, Nov. 11, 2011 — You may have heard about a disturbing new trend making headlines these days — one that involves parents who buy and sell contaminated items meant to intentionally sicken their kids. Parents who don’t want to give their children the varicella vaccine for chickenpox are purchasing mail-order lollipops that have been sucked by children with chickenpox, hoping to build their kids’ immunity against the disease “naturally.” Besides being illegal, this is incredibly dangerous. First, there’s no telling what other germs or bacteria are being spread through these “pox pops.” And second, exposing your kids to the varicella virus — assuming it can even survive on the candy, which isn’t clear at this point — puts them at risk for developing chickenpox, which can be serious or, in some cases, even deadly.
The pox pops trend is a variation on the decades-old tradition of “pox parties,” where healthy kids are invited to play with infected kids to expose them to the virus. Invitations to such events have been posted on Craigslist, Facebook, and even designated pox party Web sites. The idea is certainly popular — but that doesn’t mean it’s good.
The best and safest way to protect your kids and build their immunity is to give them the chickenpox vaccine, which the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for all young people ages 12 months to 12 years. Some 6 percent of parents choose not to vaccinate their children against chickenpox out of either fear or principle, according to a recent study in Pediatrics, but research shows that’s a risky decision.
Here, five reasons to skip the pox pops and parties and get your kids vaccinated:
1. Getting the chickenpox vaccine is much safer than getting the disease. Many parents wonder whether it’s better for their child to get infected with chickenpox or to get the vaccine, and there really should be no question. The vaccine, which is given in two doses at least three months apart, usually around age 1, is made up of a weakened version of the virus that cannot cause full-blown disease. Adverse reactions are the exception, not the rule — and when they do occur, they’re generally very mild. About 20 percent will have temporary soreness or redness at the injection site, and 10 percent will have a slight fever. More serious problems like seizures are exceedingly rare: Less than .1 percent of kids who get the vaccine experience such a response, compared with 10 percent of kids who don’t get the vaccine and require medical attention for serious complications associated with chickenpox.
2. Chickenpox is no picnic — for you or your child. Even mild cases are uncomfortable and inconvenient. Most children with chickenpox first develop cold-like symptoms, followed by a fever and then as many as 500 itchy, fluid-filled blisters that begin on the head or chest and quickly spread to the rest of the body. Some unlucky kids may also experience vomiting or diarrhea. This can last for up to 10 days, during which time your child will be unable to attend school and will need to be cared for and watched for signs of infection. About 1 in 10 children will develop a complication such as pneumonia, secondary skin lesions, dehydration, or, in rare cases, encephalitis (swelling of the brain). A few may even die.
3. Not vaccinating your children puts other children at risk, too.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE LIST.
- Doctor aghast as lollipops used to spread chickenpox (ctv.ca)
- Some parents are idiots (bio230fall2010.wordpress.com)
- Vaccine Drastically Cut Chickenpox Deaths: CDC (huffingtonpost.com)
- Parents Warned Not to Give Children Chickenpox Lollipops (shoppingblog.com)
- Chickenpox Lollipops? Vaccination Fears Lead to Pox Parties (inquisitr.com)