By Katie Moosbrugger
Just when you thought this pesky virus died off in the 80s along with your Holly Hobbie ovens and Shrinky Dinks…welp, think again. It recently reared its fleshy, crusty heads in my house this past week, and yes, my kids had been vaccinated!
It all started innocently enough. My 10-year-old daughter, Emily, woke up with a few itchy bumps on her hand. My first thought was “Oh no, it’s mulluscum.” Not that there’s really anything to worry about with mulluscum, but my son had it once and those bumps are not cute. And having not-so-cute bumps all over the body of easily-grossed out tween would not sit well. So I shooed her off to the bus stop and said we’ll take a closer look at the bumps when she got home.
Eight hours later, she got off the bus covered head to toe in itchy bumps and red splotches.
They were on her face, neck, trunk, arms, legs, and bare feet. During her recess hour, she was sent to the school nurse when her teachers thought the bumps could be of concern. But I never got a call to pick her up. The nurse thought it was poison ivy because, like many of us in this day and age, who really thinks about chicken pox?
When Emily told me all this and showed me the rash, I actually had a fleeting thought of chicken pox but was more worried about it being an allergic reaction. My neighbor friend who is a nurse, however, was more convinced it was the pox, and so off to the doctor we went.
And thus begins our life in quarantine.
When I alerted the pediatrician we were coming in, I was told to ring the office when we arrived. We were not allowed to enter the front door to the reception area. We were escorted through the back door, and then escorted out the same way. I was like, “Wait…what about payment?” Not to worry – they’ll bill us accordingly.
I notified the school the next morning, and immediately received a call back from the school nurse. She works with the county health department and had to call me on behalf of infectious diseases to confirm we were diagnosed by a doctor and that we’d stay home until it cleared.
Then I find out all the students in my daughter’s classes had to be escorted out of the classrooms so they could disinfect the desks with bleach. All the kids in my daughter’s grade were also informed of about chicken pox, how to recognize the signs and symptoms, and what to do if they thought they had it.
I know this virus is no where even close to Ebola, but I was starting to feel like we might get a call from our local news affiliate.
Back at home, my daughter began a regimen of twice daily oatmeal and baking soda baths, four daily doses of Acyclovir (a medicine to help accelerate her recovery – a good drug to know!), and round-the-clock Benedryl cream and pills. This whole saga began on Wednesday, and as I finish typing this post on Sunday, we have left the house just once (a trip to the veterinarian ER of all places – the one highlight of my weekend), my son is going bonkers from boredom, and my daughter is still itching her 50+ chicken pox bumps. Sigh.
Who knows how long she will be home, but she cannot go back to school until all her bumps are gone. As weird as this may sound, I actually do not mind a sick child at home. That is, a child who I can baby and nurse, and one who naps most of the day. The problem is – she is NOT that child. Instead, she feels FINE (just itchy) – and so this is no ordinary sick kid. Despite the fact she’s drowning in make-up work from school, she spends her days (and mine) doing endless back-walkovers across the family room chairs, belting out Taylor Swift and Arianna Grande songs, and asking me endless questions. Sigh again.
The fact that Emily was vaccinated for chicken pox means the virus hasn’t presented itself as it normally does. Most of her bumps are not like the usual chicken pox (which is why the school nurse thought she had poison ivy), and she is not showing the usual flu symptoms – all because the virus is suppressed due to her previous vaccinations. BUT – she is still considered contagious.
So as far as the contagious thing is considered, I have received a lot of questions and warnings. (If you happen to be a doctor or nurse reading this post, and can clarify these findings, please do so!).
Who Can Catch the Chicken Pox?
Believe it or not, if you your child was vaccinated, you’re still among the lucky 1-3% who could contract it (like Emily). If you or your child has never been vaccinated (or have never had chicken pox) and one of you happened to be sneezed or coughed upon by someone who has chicken pox – or you touch the fluid from a chicken pox blister – then the chances of you contracting chicken pox is high. A person with chicken pox is considered contagious a few days before the virus presents itself and until all the blisters have scabbed. And contracting chicken pox as an adult is a lot more painful than contracting it as a child.
If you are pregnant, you may be at risk with complications. Be sure to talk to your doctor.
Can You Contract Shingles from Chicken Pox?
A lot of my friends warned me that my husband and I could now contract shingles. If you’re not aware, shingles is EXTREMELY painful. You may think shingles is something only old people get, but I have friends in their 20s, 30s and 40s who have contracted shingles. BUT, from what I have discovered through research, you cannot contract shingles from being in contact with someone with chicken pox. In fact, there is a very small but likely chance you can catch shingles from someone who has shingles (from direct contact with the rash). Unlike chicken pox, you cannot contract shingles before the rash appears and you cannot contract it through sneezing or coughing.
The varicella zoster virus that causes chicken pox lays dormant in all of us who have had chicken pox. In many of us that virus never surfaces, but for some that virus can trigger shingles due to age or stress or because of another reason that makes our immune system weak – or through direct contact with shingles blisters. If you’ve never had chicken pox or the vaccination, the virus will most likely present itself as chicken pox among adults and not as shingles.
How Can You Avoid Chicken Pox and Shingles?
Most of us follow vaccinations for our children, and that should help your child from ever getting the virus. And most of us adults have had chicken pox. However, if you are an adult who has never had chicken pox, you can still get vaccinated. Plus, there is also a vaccination for shingles if you are worried about contracting that.
Hopefully this situation will never present itself in your family, but there is the chance. If you’re concerned, be sure to talk to your doctor. I’d like to think vaccinations are a good thing (remember this post?), but immunizations are not always so reliable. In fact, we’re not the only family to contract this crazy virus after vaccinations; a friend of mine’s daughter had it last year in preschool here in the Triad. And I’m sure there have been more cases. So it’s baaaack…are you ready?