From the “Some People are Nuts” File

Via MSNBC:  Chickenpox lollipops? Some moms may be sending in mail

You’ve probably heard of "chickenpox parties," where parents get unvaccinated kids together (in the home of an infected child) in the hopes they’ll catch the disease. They think making their kids suffer through the disease will help them develop stronger immunity than immunization would provide.

But now the buzz is all about people shipping objects that have been contaminated with the chickenpox virus to people who live too far away to attend a pox party.

Actually, prior to now I was blissfully ignorant of “pox parties” and can’t help but ask:  what the frak?

FILED UNDER: Parenting,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Anthony says:

    You can be immunised against chicken pox? I didn’t know that. Don’t think that was around when I was younger. Thought it may be a British thing.

    I’ve heard of it. Never thought it was about an alternative to immunisation (pretty obviously, as I didn’t know it existed).

    As I understood the logic runs as follows: Generally speaking, you only get chicken pox once. If you get it as an adult it’s quite a big deal, so it’s better to get it out of the way early and then stop worrying about it. If one of the children has it at a “convenient” time, it makes a certain amount of sense to have a degree of control over when your child comes down with it. It’s not necessarily completely insane. Unless you can get a vaccination, in which case it’s utter batshit.

  2. @Anthony: There have been chickenpox vaccinations for some time now (although not when I was a child–indeed, I had a pretty hefty case of chickenpox when I was 6. I managed to get the mumps, too).

    My kids have all been vaccinated, for example, and they even give the shot to older folks who did not get the disease as kids. I think my parents have gotten said shot.

    Here’s info from the CDC: click.

  3. Anthony says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Well, in that case you’re absolutely right. If a vaccine is available, it’s nuts.

    Incidentally, I’ve looked into it and it seems the reason I didn’t know about the vaccine is that it is not routinely adminstered on a population-wide basis in the UK (or Germany and some other EU countries), but only to high-risk groups and medical staff.

  4. Le Thump says:

    I went to Pox Party when I was younger and I was born in 1983. Vaccine wasn’t available to 1995 in the US. Anthony is right about the logic, chickenpox for vast amount of children is minor event overall. Might as well get it over with before kids get into school and they have to miss a week or so or even worse, don’t get it as child and end up with it as adult which can lead to severe problems.

    While most Doctors no longer approve of these parties, they didn’t back in 1980s. My Pediatrician told my mother I was fine to attend these parties and my risk of complications was extremely low. Both my parents are college educated as well so it wasn’t some backwards hick thinking either.

  5. @Le Thump: I follow the logic, although I confess I do not agree with it (speaking as a parent of three).

    I interpret contemporary behavior as part of the anti-vaccination movement (although that is surmise, I admit)–something I do put in the “nuts” category.

  6. Boyd says:

    I agree, Steven. I’ll bet these parents would rather their children contract chicken pox than run the supposed risk of autism from the vaccine. Folks do some strange stuff sometimes.

  7. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    They think making their kids suffer through the disease will help them develop stronger immunity than immunization would provide.

    I’m not sure the phrasing of this particular sentence is objective or neutral; it seems to imply that those who would introduce their kids to chickenpox the “natural” way are crazy.

    I have a good friend who is a family physician, and he says that the immunity one gets from the “natural” chickenpox actually is stronger and lifelong, whereas there is evidence that the immunity received from the vaccination becomes weaker and even lost, hence the CDC and ACIP’s recommendations for a booster shot. Granted, the same evidence seems to show that those who do get the chickenpox after a vaccination only get a mild case of it.

    I’m not particularly religious on this point either way, but pox parties seem kind of silly. Neither the CDC nor ACIP recommend skipping the vaccination; indeed, do you really want to miss two weeks of work staying home with your kid just so his immunization is a little bit better? However, it seems the article should have clarified the actual medical evidence instead of simply suggesting that these people want their kids to suffer for no reason.

  8. John Burgess says:

    My son, born 1985, never got a vaccination. He did, however, at 16, come down with chickenpox. There was an outbreak at his boarding school in the UK where — as the vaccine was not yet available — no one was vaccinated. It ruined his Christmas vacation I can say.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My ex-wife got C-pox when 7 months pregnant with my 2nd son. The doctors weren’t real sure of what to expect when he was born tho as a fetus he did seem to weather it without any problems. They were put into isolation when he was born and extensive testing was done on him. He was found to have immunity but by age three or four he had lost it.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    Just another data point, this time on measles. The school I went to, Rochester Inst of Tech, is also the National Technical Institute of the Deaf. It was built with capacity for three times the “background” rate of deaf students to allow for the “Rubella Bump”, which arrived as expected while I was there. This was due to the epidemic of Rubella, aka measles, during the late 50’s/early 60’s. Mothers who got it had a much higher incidence of birth defects, deafness being only one of many, with some much more debilitating.

    And now there is a growing number of people who think it is safer to forego the vaccine. And a media that thinks it has to report both sides as equal. Once side being rigorous scientific data, and the other side being hysterical claptrap.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    How did anyone know that stuff was getting sent through the mail? Except if someone blabbled…

    Too bad we can’t find the dimwits who are doing this and remove all mail service from them for a period of time–5 years, say.

  12. haldlock says:

    In my day, we had chicken pox, mumps, measles, and whooping cough parties. We called it “Second Grade”.