My six-year-old daughter was invited to a friend’s birthday party recently. It was an ambitious party plan of going to a performance at our local children’s theater. I think the mom probably deserves a medal for herding 10 bubbling kindergarteners.
A week before the party the hosting mom called to ask if my daughter had been vaccinated for chickenpox. I said “yes” and asked why. She told me that another child’s mother called and said that her son had been exposed to the chickenpox and wanted other children who plan to attend the party to know this.
What scared me about this was that the boy’s mom wasn’t calling to see if it was okay if he still go to the party, but instead she was calling only to inform others that her son would possibly be infectious.
In retelling this story to my husband he pointed out that the mom was being responsible by calling to let people know about the situation. The more I thought about it, if I were the hosting mom, would have taken a different path.
If this had happened to me, I would have gently told the mom that her son should not attend the party because he had the potential of infecting other children. I would gently and kindly remind her that we were going to a theater with the potential of interacting with 400 other children and adults that he could infect. I’d set-up a play date for a few weeks in the future (past the infectious period) and have my child celebrate with him at a separate time. It would be a hard conversation, but something I know is the right thing to do.
Sometimes parents don’t fully understand the potential of the diseases we protect against. Some parents don’t see the bigger picture. They often don’t see that their actions have bigger implications of spreading disease to healthy kids or even vulnerable populations like pregnant moms.
I think parents are too complacent about chickenpox. Lots of parents think it’s a minor disease and even a “rite of passage” for kids to be sick for a week. For most children who get the disease it is mild but for about 1 in 10 unvaccinated children who get the disease will have a complication from chickenpox serious enough to visit a health-care provider. Chickenpox is highly contagious and dangerous for kids and pregnant women. We cannot predict who will have a mild case of the disease, who may end up hospitalized or who could end up with a deadly case.
We know the vaccine is effective. Did you see the January 2010 Kaiser Permanente study about the risks of skipping the chickenpox vaccine? Children who are not vaccinated against chickenpox are NINE times more likely to get the disease. By not vaccinating you are placing your child at a greater risk for disease.
It scares me but chickenpox parties are back. Chickenpox parties are when an infected child’s family invites their friends over to be exposed to the disease. This was a very common practice before we had the very safe and effective chickenpox vaccine. Today, some parents still want their children to be naturally exposed to the disease. Some mothers think they are doing a favor by exposing my child. I say “No thank you!”
The idea of a pox party freaks me out. It seems very strange that you would intentionally infect your child with a disease. It’s like “Hey I have mono! Wanna make out? Or here’s my used Kleenex in case you wanted my sinus infection!” Sharing a hug or toys on a playground is one thing…intentionally sharing your infectious disease is quite another. It is irresponsible.
What about you? What’s your RSVP status on pox parties? Is your kiddo going to the party?