Last week a mommy friend of mine announced that her eight year old daughter had the chicken pox and that we were welcome to stop by. My cyber ears perked up. Should I take my children over for a chicken pox party?
I've been on the fence about the concept of chicken pox parties. I generally believe that vaccines are a personal decision that every parent should make for each individual child. That said, I can wholeheartedly say that I think the chicken pox vaccine is a scam for big pharma to make more money masked as heroic prevention of a ‘deadly' illness.
Chicken pox has always been a normal, childhood illness and before the vaccine was introduced, it was estimated that only 10% of kids over 15 years old had not had the illness. Sure, on occasion an immune-compromised child may have complications or even die.
And while I don't take this lightly, for the average kid, we're talking a fever, a week or two of itchy spots, and maybe a tiny scar to show for it by adulthood.
With the introduction of the varicella vaccine in the mid 1990's, chicken pox cases dropped 90% within 10 years. Kids didn't have to suffer through the illness, and parents weren't stuck home from work taking care of a sick kid. While this may seem like a good thing, it's actually a bummer if you believe that having chicken pox is a normal and important part of a healthy childhood.
In theory, I think a chicken pox party is a brilliant idea. It's not really a party, it's just getting kids together to pass the virus while they are young enough for it to be mostly benign. Parents have been doing this for generations. But in the reality of our busy world, when is a good time to have a sick, miserable kid for two weeks (or longer if you have more that one kid sick at different times)? Is it just better to wait it out and hope for the best? Let's find out…
Why chicken pox may make for healthier humans
Getting chicken pox as a kid means you have lifelong immunity to the varicella virus. When a child gets the disease naturally, every time they are subsequently exposed to the illness after that, their immune system actually grows stronger against the virus, so that by adulthood they have become immune to the more severe and dangerous form of adult varicella called shingles. (source)
Rather than crops of itchy spots all over the body, shingles is characterized by concentrated areas of painful blisters and extreme nerve pain that feels like lightning shooting through the body. Shingles often leaves lasting nerve damage and pain.
Adult varicella is life threatening for the elderly, immune-compromised, or those with a history of chronic steroid use. For pregnant women in their first trimesters, getting the varicella virus can cause birth defects. Contracting the virus shortly before or after birth risks your baby contracting the virus as well – with a reported 30% death rate in newborns.
While the incidence of chicken pox and chicken pox related deaths has drastically been reduced since the chicken pox vaccine was released for mass use, the incidence of the more dangerous adult shingles has increased by 90 percent. (source)
By having chicken pox as a kid, you're much less likely to suffer from shingles as an adult or pass along the virus to your unborn or newly born baby. Unfortunately, the varicella vaccine does not provide the same long-term, immune boosting protection as acquiring natural immunity.
The problems with the varicella vaccines
A vaccine only provides a temporary shield against the diseases for which it is used and does nothing to strengthen the body's true immune response. In order to maintain immunity from chicken pox, shingles, and most other vaccinated illnesses, it is necessary to have regular vaccinations/boosters throughout your life. Those who are not up-to-date with vaccines are at higher risk for infection.
Even if you are vaccinated for varicella, reports of efficacy for the vaccine range from 85% according to the CDC itself to a mere 40% in smaller outbreaks (source). The shingles vaccine reports a sad 50% efficacy at best, with the chance of protection plummeting for folks 70 or older – the population most at risk for the disease leading to their death. (source)
Regardless of how you may interpret these statistics, it is a fact that with any vaccine, the shot does not guarantee immunity; without naturally acquired immunity, you are at higher risk of contracting shingles.
Beyond the issue of efficacy, the varicella vaccine is packed with a bunch of toxic additives that can actually cause more harm than good. According to this article, the rate of injury from vaccines is actually higher that the pre-vaccine fatality rate from the disease.
This is one vaccine that simply does not make sense to me.
Is a chicken pox party a good solution or just plain stupid?
Rather than leaving it to chance, many parents are purposefully scheduling playdates for their kids with children who are covered in the spots in the hope that they might contract the disease.
Unfortunately, because the vaccine has nearly eliminated childhood chicken pox, it's becoming increasingly more challenging to encounter cases of the illness. Because of this, many parents find themselves faced with non-immune teenagers with busy academic, social, and athletic schedules. Several parents I know have opted to vaccinate at this point to save the potential major inconvenience, not to mention the more severe symptoms should their adolescent child contract varicella.
Other parents, out of desperate measures, have been known to buy infected lollipops over the internet. (By the way, this practice is illegal, potentially dangerous, and probably ineffective.)
If you are lucky enough to get an invitation to a chicken pox party, it is important to assess whether or not your child is a good candidate for exposure to the virus. If you have a healthy child, the chances are that he or she will only experience a week or two of mild discomfort in return for life-long immunity. However, anyone who is immune-compromised – whether that’s through chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, being a newborn, elderly, or pregnant – is more likely to experience serious complications if they contract the varicella virus.
These days many kids suffer from low-level immune issues such as asthma, allergies, and eczema. Increasingly, the Standard American Diet is packed with non-nutritious, packaged and processed ‘foods' that do not provide a substantial foundation for good health. For kids with poor diet or chronic health issues, purposefully contracting varicella may not be a wise first move.
The best way to protect your child's health
Regardless of whether you choose to vaccinate, hit a chicken pox party, or just cross your fingers and hope for the best, the most important thing to ensuring your child's long-term health is making smart choices on a daily basis.
Do you feed your kids processed, packaged foods on a regular basis? Start to incorporate a good foundation of immune boosting foods instead. Read about the four food groups that all kids should eat – you may be surprised what they are!
Don't count on gummy vitamins to shore up your children's nutrition. Learn what to use instead of multivitamins here. Though it may seem like common sense, make sure they get plenty of sleep, fresh air, and sunshine.
For children with chicken pox, the homeopathic remedy Rhus Tox can help alleviate the symptoms of intense itching with restlessness.
Finally, for those who are immune-compromised, elderly, pregnant, or otherwise should avoid contracting the varicella virus, a homeopathic vaccine, called a nosode, may be a good alternative to the conventional shot. Contact a trained homeopath to discuss whether this is a good option for you, and you can read more about homeopathic vaccines in this post.
In the end, we did not go to the chicken pox party this time around. Turns out that my friend's daughter only has a very mild case with a single blister, and we missed our chance. But having really taken the time to consider the options, I'm pretty sure I'd jump at the next opportunity to expose my children to this normal childhood experience and life-long immunity to a potentially more devastating disease.
Would you take your kid to a chicken pox party?
If so, share this post so folks know to give you a call if their child gets the pox!