The Real Danger of Chicken Pox Parties

Kids’ parties can be competitive (Pin the Tail, anyone?), but a little healthy competition doesn’t hurt anyone. But one party idea that gets the thumbs-down from medical experts is the “chicken pox party,” which is popular among parents who don’t want their children vaccinated against chicken pox. Party rules? Invite an infected child so kids can pick up the illness the “natural way.”

That’s wrong on so many levels, says Dr. Tara Smith, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Iowa. “Chicken pox is more than an innocuous childhood disease,” says Smith, who lost two relatives to chicken pox complications. “Most kids get a fairly mild infection, but as many as 150 kids die each year from complications, including brain swelling, pneumonia, and bacterial infections including flesh-eating disease.”

Plus, she says, there’s no guarantee that your child will be infected, and there’s every risk that adults – who have a rougher time with the disease – might be. A pox on another trend as well: sending lollipops or other items infected with saliva from a child with the disease through the mail. Parents are using Facebook to spread the word.

Shipping a biohazard is crazy (and illegal) enough, but scientifically speaking? “Chicken pox won’t even live that long outside the body,” says Smith.

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About the Author

Denise Foley is a veteran health writer, the former deputy editor and editor at large of Prevention, and co-author of four books on women’s health and parenting.


3 Responses to “The Real Danger of Chicken Pox Parties”

  1. My 35 year old husband has never had the chicken pox so he’s terrified of the possibility of my kids getting it. I know my first son got the vaccine for it but I honestly can’t remember if we did the same for my second. Terrible how the second child is always a blur.

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