Keep Your Kids Safe from Chicken Pox
Usually most active in late winter and early spring, chicken pox typically affects children between the ages of 6 and 10. Here's how you can keep your kids safe from this potentially serious viral infection.
What is Chicken Pox?
Caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), chicken pox is a highly contagious infection that causes rashes, comprised of itchy blisters. For most people, the infection is relatively mild; however, in certain instances, serious complications can arise.
Decades ago, nearly all adults contracted chicken pox at some point during childhood. Thanks to modern vaccinations, however, chicken pox is becoming rarer and rarer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines are effective for 98 percent of recipients. In rare cases, when someone contracts chicken pox despite receiving a vaccine, the illness tends to be much milder.
Who Should Get a Chicken Pox Vaccine?
Two doses of the chickenpox vaccine (Varivax) are recommended for young, healthy children, with the first administered at about 12 to 15 months and the second at around 4 and 6 years. The vaccine is also recommended for older children - in two "catch-up" doses spread a few months apart - if they were not vaccinated at earlier ages. Unvaccinated adults should receive the vaccine if they are at a high risk of exposure.
Why Should My Child Get Vaccinated?
While many people regard chicken pox as a harmless childhood rite of passage, the virus can actually cause serious health issues, including:
- Severe dehydration
- Toxic shock syndrome
- Severe, long-term scarring when young children scratch blisters.
- Bacterial infections of the bones, skin, joints, soft tissues or bloodstream
For all of these reasons, it's important to get your child vaccinated to protect against the varicella-zoster virus. You should also avoid participating in so-called "pox parties" and other activities, designed to intentionally infect children with the chicken pox virus.