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  • Chickenpox Parties Are a Bad Idea. Please Don't Attend or Host One

    Chickenpox parties became popular back when its vaccine had not yet been introduced.
    by Kate Borbon .
Chickenpox Parties Are a Bad Idea. Please Don't Attend or Host One
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Despite the danger, it seems some parents still prefer to take matters into their own hands when it comes to highly infectious vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and chickenpox. Case in point: “chickenpox parties” seem to be making a comeback particularly in the United States.

    In October 2018, TODAY reported that several private Facebook groups based in Denver, Colorado had been sharing information about chickenpox parties. During these events, parents intentionally exposed their unvaccinated children to other children infected with chickenpox, a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus.

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    Say no to chickenpox parties

    It's easy to see why people think a chickenpox party for kids is a good idea. Most children who get infected with this viral infection recover, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And if they get chickenpox as kids, they become less likely to contract the infection as teens or as adults when it can be a lot more serious, even fatal.

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    It's this so-called immunity that has some parents convinced that intentionally getting their kids infected is still a good idea now. But remember chickenpox parties had been widespread over 20 years ago when there was no chickenpox (also known as varicella) vaccine available, which was only officially introduced in 1995.

    According to the CDC, the risks of exposing children — mainly unvaccinated children — to kids infected with chickenpox can be dangerous because it will be hard to determine the severity of the symptoms accurately.

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    “Chickenpox can be serious and can lead to several complications and death, even in healthy children. There is no way to tell in advance how severe your child’s symptoms will be. So it is not worth taking the chance of exposing your child to someone with the disease,” the CDC said.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also states, “Exposing children to the disease does not guarantee they will get it nor that they will have a mild case. No one can predict which child will have a life-threatening reaction to the disease.”

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    Dr. Anna Lisa T. Ong-Lim, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP), shares the same opinion, telling SmartParenting.com.ph, “I think that was a response in the early days because there was no vaccine,” Dr. Ong-Lim told. “So it was an attempt by parents to control the circumstances over which [their children] would get the disease…But now that you have a vaccine, why would you want to do that?”

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    Vaccine is the best protection against chickenpox

    For these experts, the best way to protect our children from infectious diseases like chickenpox is still vaccination. According to the immunization schedule prepared by the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) together with the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV), children need to receive two doses of the varicella vaccine, the first between the ages of 12 and 15 months and the second between the ages of 4 and 6 years.

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    On the other hand, for children aged 13 years and above who have not been infected with chickenpox or who have not received the vaccination, the CDC advises parents to have them receive two doses at least 28 days apart.

    “For the chickenpox vaccine, the efficacy rate that’s been quoted is in the high nineties,” Dr. Ong-Lim shared. “So, if you were vaccinated, then it decreases your chances of getting the disease to 10% versus if you were exposed without the vaccine — it has a very high infectivity rate of about 90%.”

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    Though it is still possible for vaccinated children to be infected with chickenpox, the AAP notes the advantage of being immunized. “If an immunized person gets chickenpox, the illness will be much milder than in a non-immunized person. Varicella vaccine protects children now and as adults when they are more likely to die from chickenpox and its complications. It cuts down on days that a child might be absent from school or that a person will have to miss work.”

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    Finally, being vaccinated will help protect other members of the community, especially those who cannot receive the vaccination, specifically babies less than a year old, expecting women, and those with weak immune systems.

    The symptoms of chickenpox include itchy red rashes that eventually turn into fluid-filled blisters, fever, headache, and a loss of appetite. 

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