Parents Are Hosting 'Chickenpox Parties' To Deliberately Infect Their Kids With The Illness
When I caught chickenpox as a five-year-old, with little to no pain threshold, I was very pleased to learn that the agony I was in was something I would never again have to experience. As we all know, once you contract chickenpox (caused by the varicella-zoster virus), you will most likely never get it again.
Now, some parents even take it upon themselves to intentionally expose their kids to the disease in the form of "chickenpox parties". During these "parties", healthy children are encouraged to mix with kids who have chickenpox. They do this so that their children will then develop immunity to the disease, preventing them from catching it later on in life.
Following the chickenpox vaccine's arrival in 1995, the practice of hosting such parties naturally waned. Very recently, however, it seems that parents have reverted back to this now outdated approach to maintaining their kid's health.
Addressing this reemerged trend, experts are now warning parents that their kids should steer clear of these parties.
"There is no way to tell in advance how severe your child's symptoms will be," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explained. "So it is not worth taking the chance of exposing your child to someone with the disease."
The thing is when a child (no matter how healthy they originally were) contracts chickenpox, the usually innocuous disease could end up posing a detrimental risk to their overall health.
In fact, in rare cases, it can even result in fatalities.
"It's impossible to predict," Dr. Natasha Burgert told INSIDER. "Some kids will just get a few [chicken pox], some will die. You just don't know, so we vaccinate everyone [we can]."
If the child is unfortunate enough to develop complications of the disease, this could result in a very serious bacterial infection, encephalitis (brain inflammation), cerebellar ataxia (inability to control your muscles), sepsis or pneumonia.
Also, some parents who choose to expose their children to chickenpox as opposed to getting them vaccinated, believe that having the opportunity to catch the disease will ultimately boost their immune system.
However, according to Burgert this widely-held belief is, in fact, a myth.
"[It is] incorrect that getting the natural disease is going to make your immunity stronger so you don't need a vaccine, which is a much safer option," Burgert told INSIDER. "People don't realise that the reason we made vaccines is that they can't kill kids."
The bottom line is your child should be vaccinated against chickenpox. It provides exactly the same amount of immunity against future contraction as exposure to the virus - with increased safety being the key difference.