As parents, we are the guardians of our children. From the first time we hold them in our arms, we make it our sole purpose in life to keep them safe from all harm. We take every precaution possible throughout their lives to ensure that they are safe and healthy, from constantly disinfecting everything to staying up all night when they are sick. But what if intentionally putting your child in harm’s way could be beneficial in the long run? What if putting your child in a certain position in the hopes that he will contract a contagious illness is something that could actually help him? What if I told you that parents are already doing this regularly?
As part of their life’s mission to protect their children, many parents intentionally expose their children to the chickenpox virus in the hopes that their child will catch it. They have the best of intentions, but does that make it right? You can decide for yourself.
A party infested with chickenpox is what some parents consider a safer alternative to vaccinations. Health officials would strongly argue this fact, but it is still practiced much more commonly than you think. The idea is to expose children to the virus to help build up their immunity against it, in lieu of vaccinating.
Think of a pox party as your typical childhood sleepover, but with calamine lotion instead of piñatas. Parents bring their children together with one infected child so that their children can contract the illness as well. Because reports have shown that chickenpox is more easily cured in young children than adults, parents feel that by exposing their child to the virus as early as possible, they are protecting them from suffering later.
Pox parties are extremely controversial; as would anything of this kind be. While officials cannot force parents to refrain from this practice, they definitely do not condone it. As stated, parents have all the right intentions when they take their children to one of these parties. They figure their child will catch the virus, get a fever and a few itchy bumps, they’ll make soup and take care of them, and it will all be over with.
One thing that needs to be kept in mind, however, is that even in children chickenpox can get out of hand and be fatal if not treated properly. If you are going to expose your child to chickenpox or any other virus for which parties are held, is extremely important that you do your research. You need to know what to expect, what is normal, and what requires immediate medical attention.
Before the chickenpox vaccination was approved, there were about 150 deaths in children per year in the US from chickenpox. While this number is not great, you must also keep in mind that there are other complications that can arise from the chickenpox virus. One of the major reasons pediatricians warn against pox parties is that there is the risk of the children contracting encephalitis, pneumonia (a certain type that is strictly chickenpox-related), and group A strep.
When you really look at the big picture, the chances of your child contracting any of these illnesses or even dying from the chickenpox are pretty slim; but so are any potential health risks associated with vaccinations. There has recently been so much back and forth arguing about the safety of vaccinations, that it really is no wonder that parents are shying away from them. Especially this particular one; parents know that once their child has had it, it’s over and they never have to deal with it again.
An even more controversial that is taking place in an effort to expose children to chickenpox while they are young is the idea of “chickenpox lollipops.” If the first thing that comes to mind are chickenpox laced candy; you are exactly right. In the US, there were actually federal warnings issued against this practice, because the lollipops are not just being traded between families. Complete strangers are mailing the laced lollipops to other people so that they can try and infect their child.
Along with the lollipops, swaps and vials of saliva are also being shipped and received by parents everywhere. This is not a small ring of people; there are a substantial amount of parents engaging in this practice. Parents are finding each other and the infected items are being sent via social networking sites. Facebook even has a page called, “Find a Pox Party in Your Area.” Parents use the page to contact each other and find people who can send them infected items.
Again, the idea is to build up the child’s immunity rather than taking any of the risks that come with vaccinating. Parents see this as a safer alternative and feel that they are helping their child by exposing them early so that they don’t have to deal with the virus as adults. Studies have shown that the older you are when you contract the virus, the worse the symptoms and effects are.
While you may be attempting to protect children from health related danger, you may be putting yourself at risk for legal danger. In the US, the practice of mailing chickenpox infected items through the mail is illegal. The lollipops themselves are not necessarily illegal; just parts of the act itself. First, it is illegal to tamper with consumer products, such as the lollipop. Rewrapping a lollipop after giving to an infected child and then sending it to someone else (even upon their request) is tampering in its worst form.
Sending contaminated mail through the postal system is also illegal; even if it never crosses state lines. Plus, there is the fact that every piece of mail that package comes in contact with and every person who touches it is being exposed to the virus. You may think you are only sending the infection to the person who wants it, but that is not the case.
Two federal offenses mean enormous fines and even prison time. Simply put; if you want to expose your child to the virus for his own good; this may not be the best way to do it.
So now you decide; pox parties vs. vaccinations. Both have their advantages and their risks. Both build up your child’s immunity. Both are controversial.
A vaccination injects a small dose of the virus into your child; they do not experience the full fledged effects, but there is still a slight chance that they could contract the virus later. Pox parties and lollipops expose your child and cause him to contract the actual virus. Once he’s past it (assuming there are no complications), you never have to worry about it again. As a parent and the guardian of your child’s health and wellness, only you can decide what is best.