I’m going to throw a change-up at you and ask you a health question that’s about something other than exercise.
When I was growing up, if a child contracted chickenpox, it wasn’t uncommon for other parents to arrange play dates for their kids with the infected child. In fact, I think that’s how I may have gotten the virus in the summer before kindergarten.
In 1995, a chicken pox (technically, varicella) vaccine was introduced. I would’ve thought this would bring an end to these so-called pox parties. But I’ve recently seen reports that the phenomenon is regaining steam, fueled both by general mistrust of vaccinations and social media sites. I’ve even read about an offer on Facebook to send lollipops infected with the chickenpox virus to interested parents.
Is there any advantage to children getting a full-blown chickenpox infection rather than being vaccinated?
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
Although we might think of chickenpox as simply an itchy nuisance, the virus can cause severe discomfort and serious complications such as pneumonia and dangerous secondary infections. In the most extreme cases, the virus can be fatal. Skipping the vaccine and, instead, trying to infect a child with the virus is a terrible idea.
The chickenpox vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective. While it does not offer perfect immunity from the virus, most children who receive it do not develop chickenpox. And those who do contract the illness typically develop a much more mild form than they would otherwise.
In addition, once a person has had chickenpox, the varicella virus remains in the body in a dormant form. But as we age, that virus may reawaken as shingles, a painful, blistering skin rash that can bring severe complications. Studies indicate that people who have had the vaccine are far less likely to contract shingles than those who’ve simply had the virus.
Vaccines are perhaps the foremost public health advancement in the last century. Shunning the chickenpox (or measles, mumps or rubella) vaccine in favor of exposing your child to the live virus not only a big step backward—it’s downright dangerous.