Monday, November 7, 2011

Chickenpox Lollipops - A Dangerous Scam

It has come to my attention that there are people out there selling “Chickenpox Lollipops” to parents who wish to expose their children to the virus. In the past, some parents made their children (often unknowingly) attend "chickenpox parties" to help their children get sick.

As children get older, the potential symptoms of the chickenpox increase dramatically. If a child manages to grow up without contracting the chickenpox, it can be a life threatening illness as an adult. Parents obviously want to protect their children from the dangers of infection later in life by exposing them at a younger age, but is ordering “infected” lollipops over the Internet really the answer?

As there is absolutely no regulation on the sellers, you simply have no idea what is on these lollipops. Even if you take the sellers word at face value, the lollipops have allegedly been licked by a child infected with the chickenpox. Who knows what other microbes that the person doing the licking is carrying and depositing there for your child. It’s not a 2-for-1 special if you give your child hepatitis or a staph infection too. At best, the lollipops simply don’t have anything at all on them, and you’ve been scammed out of some money. At worst, your child could be exposed to other dangerous illnesses.

A Chickenpox infection can
be far worse the older you are.
The virus itself doesn’t last for very long outside the body. So even if the lollipops were licked, the virus will probably not have lived through the trip to your house. Licking a lollipop doesn’t even guarantee that a child will catch the chickenpox from them. The virus spreads between people usually through the airways (i.e. coughing or sneezing) of ill individuals or through direct contact with secretions from an infected person’s rash. Both of these methods of infection require you to be in close quarters with an infected person.

On top of the other risks, it’s simply illegal to send or receive an infectious disease through the mail. Still, people are making money off of this risky and dangerous practice, often at the expense of worried parents and innocent children.

With a tested chickenpox vaccine available and part of a normal vaccination program for children, the risks of a mail order lollipop seem way too dangerous. If you are concerned about vaccines affecting your child’s health, there are other ways to expose your child to the chickenpox virus. Parents have a long tradition of using “Chickenpox Parties” to expose their children to the virus from other children who are infected. Since this is how children are normally exposed (though before symptoms show on an infected child), the risks are really no more than with a normal infection. Some doctors, however, caution that these parties could also expose children to many other kinds of germs (some from each child) and could lead to multiple illnesses at once. It's not clear whether this is true, but children are exposed to each other at school this way anyway.

Source: WebMD

Other Resources:
PubMed - Chicken Pox Page

Researched and written by Dr. Rebecca Malamed, M.D. with assistance from Mr. Malcolm Potter.

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