‘We don’t need to bring chickenpox parties back’

I HATE to be a party pooper, but somebody needs to talk sense into parents.

While we all love to relive our glory days from decades past, the retro craze for chickenpox parties really has me scratching my head. (Don't worry, I'm not contagious.)

It's literally going viral.

Sure, the insidious varicella strain used to be a rite of passage for children - and it made sense to expose kids since the virus tended to be milder the earlier it was contracted.

Surely we don’t need to bring back chickenpox parties?
Surely we don’t need to bring back chickenpox parties?

But guys, this is a party you don't need to attend. Just use your RSVP - Really Super Vaccine Prevention.

Given the current outbreak on the Gold Coast - yes, an actual pox is upon us - medical authorities suggest we top up our vaccinations. Because while science is awesome, it's not always perfect.

With a single chickenpox vaccination at age 18 months, 10 per cent will still contract the virus - although a milder form.

I can already hear the anti-vaxxers say "why bother?" Well, I'm kind of tempted to say the same when it comes to dropping some facts on to their hemp-wrapped heads, but I'm doing it for the children.

Yep, the chickenpox sucks. Picture: istock
Yep, the chickenpox sucks. Picture: istock

Basically, the chickenpox really sucks. Total science right there.

And it doesn't suck just for the kids. Being trapped at home with a child in extreme discomfort is nobody's idea of fun. They miss schoolwork, you miss them being at school.

Also, it's not always a mild disease.

America's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says: "Chickenpox can be serious, even deadly, especially for babies, pregnant women, adolescents, adults, and people with weakened immune systems."

So … pretty much everyone, then.

Hundreds of children used to die every year from the chickenpox. Back in the '90s, it was a girl from the Gold Coast - a little gymnast who never got to fulfil her future. Sadly, there was no vaccine when she was a baby.

Chickenpox can be serious.
Chickenpox can be serious.

But while the vast majority of us lived through the experience, it could still be a horrific episode.

I should know, I was forced to play nurse to my husband when he contracted the pox at the age of 28 during an epic USA road trip.

Now, this was no man flu. It was legit nasty.

To complicate matters, we were staying with a newly pregnant friend in Washington DC when the first pox appeared.

We didn't even know what it was initially. My husband was so ill with fever, chills and headache … while the pox, although visible, didn't actually itch.

We had our suspicions but didn't yet know if we should flee the city for the sake of my friend's safety - and my husband could NOT ride on public transportation to access medical care. This was due in part to the sake of the general population's health, obviously - but also, I really didn't want to be seen in public with this poxy dude.

So I came up with a solution. One which involved our camcorder (it was the early noughties), a nude husband and some very unfortunately placed spots.

I took this secret pox tape into the medical centre where I played it to a doctor. As the video finished, I awaited her diagnosis.

Instead, she called out to every staff member to come see my husband's, um, member.

Immediately I was surrounded by at least a dozen doctors, nurses and other patients who were calling out "Rewind! Rewind! PAUSE!!"

Eventually, it was confirmed he was suffering the chickenpox. Also, complete humiliation.

Both had lasting effects. The former meant he had years of ear, nose and throat problems due to the placement of some of the pox. The latter meant I was forced to erase that video … also due to the placement of some of the pox.

Imagine our joy, then, when we discovered our children could be saved from this physical and psychological torment with one (OK, maybe two) needles.

And don't worry, I still have plenty of embarrassing videos of them to save for their 21st birthdays.

After all, I'd hate to be a party pooper.



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