A Brief History of “Pox Parties”

lollipop There seems to be a trend going on involving “Pox Parties”. In short, the purpose of these parties is to intentionally get a child exposed to chicken pox. Did you know that your health insurance covers the cost of the vaccine that protects children from this disease?

What is a “Pox Party”? This is the term used when parents intentionally expose their healthy children to the chicken pox virus. In the past, this was generally done by bringing children over to the home of a child who currently has the chicken pox.

Typically, the “Pox Party” would include family members, (like a group of cousins), or it would be held for a group of children who all play together and live near each other. In other words, people organized a “Pox Party” with families that they knew well, that they visited with frequently in person, and that they trusted. These events started before the varicella vaccine was available.

Why on earth would a parent intentionally take actions that would cause their child to catch a disease? It comes from a misunderstanding. The chicken pox infection requires 10,000 hospitalizations a year, and over 100 deaths, each year, in the United States. Kids who catch chicken pox “naturally” are not necessarily immune to the disease, forever.

Parents who attend the “Pox Party” are also being exposed to chicken pox, and can catch it, (even if they had chicken pox when they were a child). Adults who catch chicken pox have a higher risk of experiencing complications from it.

If you have health insurance, then you can get your child the varicella vaccine for free. This vaccine, and several others, are considered to be preventative care. That means that your health insurance will cover the cost of this vaccine for children who are under the age of 18. There is no reason to resort to a dangerous “Pox Party”, where your child will be exposed to an unregulated amount of the virus (and potentially other viruses as well).

The chicken pox vaccine was first licensed for use in the United States in 1995. In 2005, a combination vaccine was created called MMRV, which protects children against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella. It is recommended that the varicella vaccine is given to all children who are younger than thirteen years of age. It also is recommended to be given to people older than thirteen years of age who have never had chicken pox.

This year, some people are purchasing lollipops, that have been in the mouth of a child who has the chicken pox. Keep in mind that the mailing of “infectious items”, whatever they are, through the mail is a federal offense. If your child catches the chicken pox this way, your insurance company might choose to deny your claim for coverage. Insurers won’t cover an illness or injury that occurs as the result of taking part in an illegal activity.

Image by Ana Ulin on Flickr