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Doctors Are Warning Parents To Avoid Trendy Chickenpox Parties

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Chickenpox is a highly contagious infection that commonly causes itchy blisters all over the body, fever, headache, and fatigue.

It used to be the most common childhood illness, but thanks to the varicella vaccine, there's been less reports of the infection.

While many children who get infected recover within a few weeks, sometimes the virus can be deadly, especially for babies, adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

However, not every parent chooses to get their kids vaccinated, rather they're exposing their children to the virus on purpose, and doctors are highly advising against it.

The Rise Of Chickenpox Parties

According to investigations by Denver station KUSA 9News, parents are organizing chickenpox parties through private Facebook groups to help their children build up immunity.

Some parents are even willing to drive hours to different states to let their kids mingle with an infected person.

In a screengrab obtained by the news station, a mother wrote that she's been "swamped with requests" to have her daughter share her chickenpox.

She even noted that her teenager broke out in blisters and her husband suffered shingles while her daughter was infected.  

CHICKEN POX PARTIES | Parents in Boulder are organizing parties to expose their kids to chicken pox. 9NEWS spoke with an...

Posted by 9NEWS (KUSA) on Monday, October 15, 2018

Some people go as far as putting children in a tent so that they can sit in an enclosed space, increasing the chances of a child contracting the virus.

Since chickenpox can spread by breathing in the particles, the "tenting method" works well, and is likely what's used at many of these "pox parties."

girls in tent
The "tenting method" is a popular way for children to get exposed to the virus quickly. National Park Service

However, experts are advising against these parties, and argue that getting the vaccine is much safer.

Why Getting Vaccinated Is Important

The reason why parents are in a hurry to get their children infected with the virus before they reach adolescents is because the virus can turn into a serious infection.

Shingles is caused by the same virus as the chickenpox, but has different symptoms in older children and adults.

It's much more painful and the virus can reactivate multiple times in one's lifetime.

Lindsay Diamond, a molecular biologist, told KUSA 9News that getting the vaccine may be the safer alternative to giving a child lifelong immunity:

"There's this emphasis on natural immunity being better than vaccine-delivered immunity. So, the idea [is] that you would get your child chickenpox, and that would give them this sort of life-long immunity. But you can achieve the same thing, or close to, with the vaccine without serious risks."

Diamond is aware of the concerns parents have about the vaccine, such as allergic reactions, but argues that the shot will prevent potentially life-threatening complications from the virus, like encephalitis and pneumonia.  

According to the CDC, chickenpox can also increase the risk of sepsis, dehydration, and other bacterial infections.

Not only is getting vaccinated safer for children, it's also safer for the community.

"This is all focused on your child, but in reality this is a community issue," Diamond said. "And so these people then go out into their world. They go to the library, they go to the grocery store, they go to schools where there's likely to be an immunocompromised person. And then you are risking the health of not only your own child, but the public health."

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment is also urging people to get their kids vaccinated.

"Talk to your doctor about the chicken pox vaccine. It's recommended for kids between 12 and 15 months and again between 4 and 6 years. Older kids and adults who didn't have the vaccine or the disease also should get two doses," they tweeted.

Social media users have a lot to say about these "pox parties."

On KUSA's Facebook page, people weighed the pros and cons of this trend that was once popular in the 90s.

"Our parents used to do it. But that was before immunizations, when getting it was inevitable. I don't see why someone would want to expose their kid to it if they didn't have to now, though."

"This is absurd. Not because this is a to vaccinate or not to vaccinate argument but because I would NEVER subject my children to getting sick!! No matter what it is ... Isn't it my job to keep (or try at least) my kids safe and healthy? The last thing as their mommy do I ever want to see my children sick and miserable and not feeling well! This breaks my heart..."

chickenpox child
According to the AAP, approximately 9,000 people are hospitalized for chickenpox and about 90 people die from the disease every year.Wikimedia Commons

Some people think these parties may not be a bad idea.

"I don't see what the big deal is. I did this as a kid. It's not new or crazy. Exposing kids to non-dangerous viruses just builds their immune system and makes them stronger."

"It's usually only dangerous for adults. Kids usually handle it fine."

[H/T: Today / CafeMom]

What's your opinion on "pox parties?"

Moojan has been a writer at Shared for a year. When she's not on the lookout for viral content, she's looking at cute animal photos. Reach her at moojan@shared.com.