Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Regrets on Your Chickenpox Party

Here's an interesting article debunking claims that it's good for your children to be exposed to harmful germs early in life. I know I sound like a harridan on this topic, but having just moved from an area where "chickenpox parties" were de rigeur (you know, all the anti-immunization parents bring their kids over to the house of a kid with chickenpox on the theory that the disease is less dangerous than the vaccination), and being the involuntary recipient of so much information on infection and immunity, it's kind of my mini-mission to try to help dispel old wives' tales about health. Partly because it just makes sense, but mostly because my life (and the lives of so many people with any number of chronic conditions that make them more susceptible to infection [not to mention your kids' grandparents and great-grandparents who are susceptible due to age alone]) really do depend--literally--on individual people making sound decisions about their own and their children's health.

This article (in case you don't feel like clicking and reading) explains why kids in day care and those around dogs and livestock, etc have fewer allergies and health issues than kids who are not. It is not, as was previously thought, because they have had earlier exposure to harmful bacteria and viruses, but because they have had earlier exposure to the millions of NON-HARMFUL bacteria that live in crowded spaces and among animals. Contrary to all of the news reports from several years ago, follow-up studies have concluded that kids exposed to harmful bacteria early in life are not healthier later in life at all. In fact, as the article says, kids who have had the flu are at a higher risk of developing MRSA (the scary antibiotic-resistant staph infection) pneumonia.

So do Grandma and Nana and Pops (and me and the thousands of other people downstream from your actions--including your kid herself) a favor and get your child a flu shot (not the nasal mist, mind you), get her vaccinated, and for god's sake, don't take her to a chickenpox party.


ps--This article reminded me of an article in this past Sunday's Globe detailing how hospitals with mandatory flu shots for employees have slashed the rates of hospital-acquired flu infections among patients. Of course, a large percentage of workers were still refusing on the grounds that the flu vaccine makes them sick. However, to get all Cliff Claven on you, the flu shot does not cause the flu. The vaccine is not live. You cannot--under any circumstances--contract the flu from a flu shot. Honestly. So go get one! You're not scared, are you? ;)

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