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What's with all the parents rushing to take their kids to Chicken Pox Parties?
You know, those parties in which parents bring their kids to the house of the one sick child (who is sick with Chicken Pox), in hopes that all kids in attendance get infected too. Yep, those parties really exist and they have officially been named Pox Parties.
Chicken Pox is caused by the herpes virus Varicella Zoster. It is self-limiting (meaning it will cure itself, no drugs required, especially not Aspirin (it can cause grave health consequences if used... or so my NPLEX study manual has told me so)). However, it is not a comfortable infection: the child will be covered in a rash and will be quite itchy. I remember my Chicken Pox experience: I was mortified at the way my skin looked and was perturbed that I had to keep taking baths (to prevent secondary infection of my bumps and to sooth the itchiness).
Getting infected with Zoster seems to be a normal part of growing up. The purpose of a Pox Party is to get children innoculated with Zoster when they are young and have stronger immune systems. The parents' reasoning makes sense to me because adult infections with this virus are quite severe! (Note: I've read, however, that some Medical Doctors (MDs) still advise that children simply get vaccines against Zoster rather than attending a Pox Party, per say. Talk to your doctor and do your own research to find out what is best for you and your child. This post is not meant to act as medical advice!).
A complication of Zoster is shingles. Shingles can develop in an adult with the virus, or it can even occur in someone who already had been exposed to the virus as a child (not fair, huh? :P). That being said, reactivation of the Zoster virus usually happens in immunocompromised (weak immune system) or already very sick and weak individuals and not usually in regular 'ol healthy Joes. Shingles is an extremely painful condition as the virus lies in the nerve roots (deromatome) lining the chest wall, and its presence here aggravates the nerves, causing painful, hot, and burning sensations.