Pox parties—where the parents of a child with chickenpox (or varicella) invite other children to come over and catch the disease—still happen in Maine, especially in the Midcoast region. Maybe you’ve seen a pox party post on your local parenting message board, or a pox party group on Facebook, or maybe a friend or acquaintance has invited you and your children to a pox party. Not sure how to turn them down? Vax Maine Kids can help.
- “No thanks, that’s way too risky for our family. Did you know that even today, children die from chickenpox?”
Before the chickenpox vaccine was approved in 1995, about 150 children died from chickenpox every year, and many more were hospitalized. As parents, we often think of chickenpox as a childhood rite of passage and laugh about the itching, the spots, and the oatmeal baths, but we’re the lucky ones. Some kids with chickenpox develop pneumonia or brain infections. Some kids are hospitalized, and some don’t survive.
Children are more likely than teens and adults to develop complications from chickenpox. In the past, parents who lost a child to chickenpox knew there was nothing they could have done to prevent it. But today’s parents can prevent their child from catching chickenpox, and they should.
“No way, I’m pregnant! Did you know 1 out of 50 pregnant women who get chickenpox will have a child with a birth defect?”
If you or anyone your children spend time with is expecting a baby, you should know that complications from chickenpox can be passed from a mother to her unborn child. You should also know that chickenpox can cause miscarriages, especially in the first trimester.
“I’m sorry, someone in our family is in chemotherapy. I would never want to expose them to a potentially fatal disease.”
Chickenpox is highly contagious—that’s why chickenpox parties work so well at getting children sick. Parents might think they can control who they are exposing the virus to, but infected children are contagious for two full days before they show any symptoms other than a runny nose. If someone has a weakened immune system, chickenpox can kill them. Healthy kids are not immune from the consequences of chickenpox either – they can also get pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and other side effects of the disease!
“No, I don’t want my kids to have lifelong scars—or worse. Did you know that one in 20 kids with chickenpox will develop a serious skin infection?”
If you had chickenpox as a child, you probably remember your parents telling you not to scratch your scabs. They were worried about infections and scarring, and rightly so! Many of us have scars from chickenpox that will never go away. And we’re lucky—children with chickenpox can develop flesh-eating bacteria in their scabs that can disfigure or even kill them.
“You know, I think the whole idea of a pox party is kind of gross.”
In Midcoast Maine, a popular version of a pox party involves sucked-on lollipops. That’s right—used candy covered in germs. Parents with infected kids give them a lollipop. Then, they mail that same lollipop to other parents to share with their kids. Not only is it illegal to send contaminated substances through the U.S. Postal Service, but it’s also pretty darn gross.
“Are you kidding? We don’t want to miss that much work and school.”
Parents who opt out of the chickenpox vaccine may find their children forced to spend a lot of time out of school. Chickenpox itself lasts 10 – 14 days if you are lucky and have no complications. But Maine schools require that children who have not been vaccinated stay home from school if any cases of chickenpox are reported at the school. And unvaccinated kids can’t return to school until a full sixteen days from the last report of an outbreak. One Maine family made the local news because they had to keep their sons home for seven weeks! That’s a lot of wasted vacation time for parents and learning time for kids.
“No, thank you, our family is all vaccinated against chickenpox!”
At Vax Maine Kids, we want this to be the answer every Maine parent gives. Visit our Recommended Vaccines page and talk to your healthcare provider to make sure everyone in your family is protected at every age.
FEEL GOOD ABOUT … Keeping your children safe from a serious illness that all Maine parents need to take seriously.
TALK ABOUT … How lucky you are to be one of the first generations of parents to be able to protect your children from chickenpox with two doses of the safe, 99% effective chickenpox vaccine.
Photo credit: by Jay-W