Do you have unpleasant memories of getting the chickenpox when you were young? You may remember having an uncomfortable rash, staying home from school for a week, and trying not to scratch the scabs. You may also remember it as a rite of passage, because all of your friends got it—It was just part of growing up. That’s because chickenpox is very contagious. One child can spread it to another from 1 to 2 days before they get the rash until all their chickenpox blisters have formed scabs (usually 5-7 days). But, now, your children don’t have to suffer the way and your friends did because there’s a vaccine to protect them against chickenpox.
Before the chickenpox vaccine became available in 1995, nearly 11,000 people were hospitalized every year and about 50 children died. The disease can cause serious complications, even in healthy children. These complications include skin infections, lung infections (pneumonia), swelling of the brain, bleeding problems, blood stream infections (sepsis), and dehydration.
“The most important thing to remember is that we cannot predict which child will get a serious case or have complications from the chickenpox,” explained Dr. Stephanie Bialek at the CDC. “The chickenpox vaccine is very safe, and about 90% of kids who get both recommended doses of the chickenpox vaccine are protected against the disease. Therefore, we recommend that children get vaccinated.”
CDC recommends children get the first dose of the chickenpox vaccine at age 12 through 15 months old and the second at age 4 through 6 years. Some children do get the disease even after they are vaccinated, but it’s usually milder. Children who get chickenpox after vaccination typically have fewer red spots or blisters and mild or no fever. The chickenpox vaccine prevents almost all cases of severe disease. If your child only got one dose in the past, check with your child’s doctor about getting a second dose.
Information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention