There may be books out there that purport to guide us through parenting, but no book can truly prepare you for the decisions, opportunities and choices we are faced with in real life. In the real world, we have to use common sense to guide us in our actions. Most of the time, most people will make the choice that prioritizes the safety of our children. Sometimes, because we are human, emotion clouds our judgement. And then, there are those times when our judgement is influenced by convenience, cost and peer pressure. Surely that is where it all went wrong when some foolish parents decided to hold a "chickenpox party" where their young party guests were given infected lollipops in the hope that they would all contract chickenpox together.Chickenpox parties have apparently become popular in recent years following health concerns related to vaccinations. The next step was probably predictable; where there is a trend, someone will try to find a way to profit from it. Apparently, people are selling previously-licked lollipops (yes, licked by a child already contagious with the disease) over the internet! A Nashville, Tennessee woman has offered a "fresh batch of pox in her Facebook page: "Shipping of suckers, spit and Q-tips available tomorrow $50 via PayPal".
As far back as my own childhood, I remember siblings being exposed to each other while contagious to get the 2-week ordeal over with for the convenience of the mother. Perhaps cousins and playmates were also brought over for some passive exposure to chickenpox. I was shocked, but then quite relieved, when my daughter contracted an extremely mild case of chickenpox at 6 months old. She was too young to scratch the itchy spots and small enough for me to tend to her easily. When my 3 year old son was infected, along with half his nursery school, by one contagious child, I still thought it was better for him to have been exposed at an age when missing 2 weeks of school didn't matter much. However, he was severely affected and it was quite an ordeal for both of us. Still, I remember, now somewhat embarrassingly, having glibly invited friends to bring their kids around while he was contagious, so they would get it over with and have someone to play with while quarantined.
Even though chickenpox vaccines aren't available in the UK, I would probably have taken advantage of that option on one of our annual trips to the US, but I was too late. I would much rather my child have a proven vaccination and remove the potential danger and discomfort of any of the childhood diseases from my kids.
According to Isaac Thomsen, a specialist in paediatric infectious diseases at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, it's unlikely to work by post because the shipping time would reduce the effectiveness of the germs left on the lollipop, but it is theoretically possible. It could, however, work if the lollipop is given directly from the mouth of the contagious child to another child at a party. It could also spread other diseases, such as hepatitis. It's not only a foolish, and actually quite gross, idea to feed anything licked by a stranger to your children, but it's also a federal crime to send diseases or viruses across state lines in the post. Sending snacks laced with chickenpox would be illegal under the same law that makes it illegal to post infectious diseases such as anthrax. Jerry Martin, a U.S. Attorney in Tennessee, quoted by Sky News, said a conviction could lead to a jail sentence between a few months and 20 years.