A Poxy Blog Post

September 20, 2011 at 3:17 pm (Miscellaneous) (, , , , , , , , , )

While discussing South Park with a friend, the subject of chicken pox came up and my friend asserted that chicken pox was always mild in babies. Being an insufferable pedant, I picked up on the word “always” and queried the claim.

As I didn’t have access to Pubmed (or the CDC or HPA pages on chicken pox) at the time, I pointed out that I was going to find it difficult to prove them wrong. Fortunately, they had a solution. Long story short: when Any Question Answered sent their reply, they pointed out that (while chicken pox was more serious for older children and adults) there could sometimes be complications of chicken pox in children younger than four weeks of age. That was enough for me to win my pub argument. But I thought I’d like to see what a more reliable source might have to say…


Info on complications from the HPA’s General Information page:

Chickenpox is usually a mild illness and most healthy children recover with no complications.

Certain groups of people however, such as neonates (infants within the first four weeks of life), adults, pregnant women and those who are immunocompromised due to illness or treatments such as chemotherapy or high-dose steroids, may experience more serious complications. These include viral pneumonia, secondary bacterial infections and encephalitis.

Guidelines available from here.


The About The Disease page is broken down into sections. Here is their brief overview of the disease: link.

Huuuuge PDF: Pink Book Chapter on varicella. Alternate link: varicella. This PDF includes a note that “Secondary bacterial pneumonia is more common in children younger than 1 year of age.”

Sources of Information

While AQA’s answer seems to have been correct on this occasion, I doubt it would be wise to rely on AQA to answer medical questions. I would point out, however, that the AQA service was (on this occasion) the provider of information far more reliable than that provided by the execrable Find a Pox Party in Your Area group on Facebook.

The important thing to remember here is that I won my pub bet.

Update, 6 Nov 2011

Incredibly, it’s been reported that the morons from the Find A Pox Party group on Facebook have been sending pox-infected items in the mail.

Pics or it Didn’t Happen










chicken pox



  1. Martin said,

    I hope you demanded an extra shot for the win!

  2. Chris said,

    DeeTee had a very sad story of a death of a toddler from chicken pox on the old Layscience blog. The mother thought the death was from the MMR vaccine, and actually harmed another child in an attempt to show that the vaccine was the cause.

    It was very sad. I wish it was still available.

    My daughter had chicken pox when she was six months old, and it was not mild. She went from sleeping through the night to staying up all night in pain. I found some photos and was shocked how close some of the pox were to her eyes.

    With three kids sick for two weeks each, which included oldest so sick he wet his bed, I did not get much sleep for a month. I don’t know why anyone would want to live through that, especially with the pain the kids have to endure.

  3. jdc325 said,

    @Martin You’re obviously a clearer thinker than I am.

    @Chris – I vaguely remember the piece by DeeTee. It’s a real shame his stuff on Lay Science is no longer available (I remember finding his stuff on GBS and vaccination particularly useful).

  4. david said,

    The fact your friend mentioned babies and stopped there is a serious problem. Reactivation of varicella in adults can cause shingles and unremitting chronic pain requiring opioids. Unfortunately, some physicians don’t believe patients. New state drugs laws require some chronic pain patients to be treated like drug addicts:

    How many people do you know who where infected with varicella (chickenpox) during childhood? According to the CDC, almost one-third will develop postherpetic neuralgia as they age. The likelihood of this can be reduced by vaccination. Adults who have had chickenpox should be immunized. The FDA has lowered the age to 50 years (whereas the CDC site still reports 60 years and older):

  5. jdc325 said,

    @david We’d actually touched on varicella being more serious in adults and I only reported on the bit of the conversation where we disagreed. I probably should have added a note about the seriousness of varicella in adults.

    Thanks for the links you provided. I don’t think I can get the vaccine in England (we seem to have a different policy to the US) so the reports of postherpetic neuralgia are a bit disconcerting. I shall have to remind myself that I have a better than evens chance of avoiding it rather than focussing on the ~30% of unfortunates.

  6. david said,

    I think the vaccine is available in the UK or will be very shortly:

    It appears to have been approved:

  7. Helen said,

    It sounds like an awfully exciting evening.

  8. jdc325 said,

    Thanks – looks like it will (initially) be offered to those over 70.

    It was. In the words of one of today’s spambots “I discovered so numerous fascinating stuff” (they’re getting better – that one almost made sense). And any evening in which I win a pub bet (did I mention that I won the bet?) can’t be bad.

  9. Deetee said,

    Department of Health Statement on varicella zoster vaccination, January 2010.

    “JCVI reviewed medical, epidemiological, and economic evidence as well as vaccine safety and efficacy data relevant to a herpes zoster (shingles) vaccination programme. Based on the evidence, a universal herpes zoster vaccination programme for adults aged 70 years up to and including 79 years is recommended provided that a licensed vaccine is available at a cost effective price. A universal varicella vaccination for children is not recommended. These recommendations will be kept under review in light of emerging data on the epidemiology of varicella and herpes zoster infections and the cost-effectiveness of vaccines against these infections.”


  10. Deetee said,

    @Chris – good memory.

    It was the tale of a wee girl in Scotland called Anna who died of chickenpox complicated by “purpura fulminans”. The father blamed the death on the MMR vaccine, and on the mother for allowing the child to get the vaccine.

    I still have the original article I wrote for Layscience, and would be happy to have jdc repost it here if people were interested.

  11. Silas said,

    Its been two since i had chickenpox and i never took a bath, do i have to take a bath and if i have to what can i use like cold or hot water and what kind of a soap?

  12. cindy said,

    i need pictures of chickenpox to see if i have them

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