One of my three-year-old’s friends has chicken pox. Should I expose her now to get it over with?
Most children who get chicken pox have a mild illness, with a few days of itchy spots, a fever, headache, sore throat or stomach ache, and they completely recover. Chicken pox can be very serious though, especially for pregnant women, babies and people with weakened immune systems. If your kid is vaccinated, they’re protected from getting it and from passing it on to others.
Many of us were purposefully exposed to chicken pox as children. (Was anyone else sent to a Chicken Pox Party as I was, with the host of honour being a kid with a known illness?) However, before a vaccine was made available in the ’90s, chicken pox caused about four million people to get sick, more than 10,500 to be hospitalized and 100 to 150 deaths each year in the US alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s because, in rare cases, it can lead to brain or liver inflammation, blood clotting problems or pneumonia. While those with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk, most of these unlucky people were perfectly healthy before getting chicken pox.
Now that we have an effective vaccine for chicken pox, I encourage everyone to get the shot, which is given at 15 months of age and again between four to six years in most provinces.