Childhood Illnesses: Chicken Pox Parties
It used to be common practice to have "chicken pox parties," where kids could purposely be exposed to chicken pox. In fact, the trend may be reemerging. However, doctors agree that this is definitely not a good idea. Although usually a mild childhood illness, chicken pox can sometimes cause pneumonia, bacterial infections of the skin and even death. Prior to the licensing of the chicken pox vaccine in 1995, almost all people in the U.S. had contracted chicken pox by adulthood. An estimated 4 million cases of chicken pox occurred annually, resulting in 11,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths.
Now that a very safe and effective chicken pox vaccine is available, pediatricians recommend that children who have never had chicken pox receive the vaccine rather than allowing them to catch chicken pox "naturally." The vaccine causes the body to produce antibodies against chicken pox, much as catching the disease might allow them to do, but in a much safer manner.
Although the vaccine doesn't offer 100 percent protection, vaccinated children who catch chicken pox almost always have an extremely mild case. If your child gets chicken pox without having had the vaccine, he will likely get about 300 itchy blisters and sores. With the vaccine, that number is more like 30 (if he gets the disease at all). He will have significant protection against the more serious complications associated with the illness, such as a dangerous skin infection or a high fever.
If your child has not been immunized, I strongly recommend getting the vaccine over letting him catch chicken pox as the preferred method of building antibodies against the disease. If he's already been immunized against this childhood illness, his body is already producing antibodies against chicken pox, so there is no reason to expose him to it.