Experts are warning parents about the dangers of chickenpox, after a healthy 11-year-old boy suffered a stroke due to a complication with the infection.
The boy’s mother took him to a doctor after noticing he developed weakness on his right side, according to a recent medical report published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
The stroke appeared to be a complication from the chickenpox infection. The boy caught chickenpox from his older siblings, who all developed the infection around the same time, doctors reported.
The boy was placed on IV antibiotics for over a week. While his weakness improved, doctors reported he continued to suffer with complications of fluid in his brain after he was released from the hospital.
Researchers noted children with chickenpox are four times more likely to suffer from a stroke within six months of getting the virus.
None of the children in the boy’s family had been vaccinated against chickenpox.
Doctors said this report highlights the dangers of skipping vaccinations.
“The risks associated with vaccines are very, very, very small,” Dr. Nina Shapiro, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine; director of pediatric otolaryngology at UCLA; and author said on the “Today” show. “But the anti-vaccine community is very loud, especially on social media. They generate a lot of anxiety in those who have not seen the horrors of preventable diseases.”
Many parents may not be familiar with the disease because chickenpox cases are becoming less common.
“Everyone thinks it’s a minor illness,” Dr. Tina Tan, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and chairwoman of the section on infectious diseases for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said on the “Today” show. “There are a number of serious complications.”
According to the medical report, stroke is a relatively rare but dangerous side effect of chickenpox.
It happens when the virus causes inflammation in the brain, which can cause scar tissue and decrease blood supply.
In some cases, patients have been able to recover with rehab, but a stroke connected to the chickenpox virus can cause permanent disabilities, including paralysis and seizure disorders, Tan said.
Chickenpox, also called varicella, can cause shingles, also called herpes zoster, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus can also cause encephalitis, pneumonia and severe dehydration.
The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get vaccinated. According to the CDC, children, adolescents and adults should all get two doses of the vaccine.
To help relieve the symptoms of chickenpox at home, CDC experts recommend using calamine lotion and colloidal oatmeal baths to relieve the itching.
Keeping a child’s fingernails short can also help prevent skin infections if they scratch the blisters.
Parents should call a doctor if their child contracts chickenpox under the age of 1, or over the age of 12.
Pregnant women, those with a weakened immune system or anyone who develops fever, vomiting or severe illness should seek treatment for chickenpox immediately.
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