The Truth Behind Chicken Pox Parties

Although a vaccine was created for chicken pox in 1995, it continues to be a highly contagious disease. Known as the varicella-zoster virus, chicken pox causes itchy blisters that primarily spread on the torso, back, and face (via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Usually lasting about a week, the blisters caused by the virus begin to scab over as the body fights the infection. With symptoms of fever, fatigue, and headache, chicken pox is generally benign to most individuals, with the exception of pregnant women, babies, and those with the compromised immune systems. In addition, the symptoms of chicken pox tend to be far worse for adults for the simple reason that they experience more complications from the virus than children (via Discovery).

Because of its virulent and less deadly symptoms, a strange trend entered the United States during the '70s and '80s. The phenomenon, known as "pox parties," took hold in houses and apartments across the country.

Chicken pox parties were discouraged

The idea is simple enough: When a neighborhood child contracted chicken pox, other parents would bring their children over to the infected child's house to expose them to the disease (via SMH). Playdates were organized where kids were actually encouraged to share whistles and lollipops in hopes of infecting the uninfected.

And while pox parties proved popular over the decades, health professionals highly discouraged the practice back then and continue to do so in more modern times with the emergence of swine flu parties in 2009 (via The New York Times). While mostly benign, the highly contagious nature of chicken pox makes it deadly for infants, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems. But perhaps the best case against pox parties? The chicken pox virus isn't the only thing that's going to be shared at these events. As noted by InfectionControl.Tips, anything and everything — from the flu to the more deadly coronavirus — can be transmitted between people at these parties. And while a case of chicken pox is certainly uncomfortable, a bad case of influenza can be even deadlier to an infant.