Is adult chicken pox as bad as they say?
September 11, 2008 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Adult friend may be contracting chicken pox for the first time. What should be expect, and should he avoid it if he can?

My friend is 26 years old, and is in the middle of a divorce where he has joint custody of his kids. The kids have been taken to a chicken pox party by his separated wife, so should all have chicken pox by now. He's supposed to get them for the weekend but there is that worry that he could get infected and go through the adult chicken pox gauntlet. I know as a teenager it was pretty crappy, so it may be worse for him.

Any advice for him? I was reading that there's a drug that adult sufferers should be on and should he contact his doctor prior to being infected?

Thanks guys!
posted by tittergrrl to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Um, that should be "he expect" not "be expect"
posted by tittergrrl at 9:54 AM on September 11, 2008

Addendum: It wasn't a party. I was mistaken. Either way, they have chicken pox for sure.
posted by tittergrrl at 9:55 AM on September 11, 2008

They have a vaccine for chickenpox now.
posted by skallagrim at 10:04 AM on September 11, 2008

He should talk to his doctor. The doctor will know more about this than most of us would, I expect.

But I do know that he should be concerned. Adult chicken pox can be deadly.
posted by cooker girl at 10:06 AM on September 11, 2008

According to wikipedia, 75% of chicken pox related deaths occur in adults. Anecdotally, I've heard that it's not just worse than the childhood experience, but fairly completely awful and hellish.

I'd say that the kids should stick with their mom that weekend, if possible.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:06 AM on September 11, 2008

I had shingles recently, which is what you get when you had chicken pox as a kid, and then they tell you that you can't get it again, the bastards, and then you get this rash that lasts for weeks and that you must not under any circumstances scratch or you will scar, but it doesn't so much itch, really it feels like little tiny shards of glass are poking at you, and you have a chance of some awful neurological problems lately and honestly I get depressed just thinking about it.

So, coming from that perspective: keep the kids away from him if possible! He does NOT want to be exposed as an adult.

I doubt he could get the vaccine if this is coming up that quickly, but check with a doctor and see if the doc can get him in.

Oh, and the good news: some people seem to just have a natural immunity to chicken pox. My husband and doctor are like this. But he shouldn't count on that.

If he does end up with chicken pox, or if he just wants to help the kids, the Magic Stuff to buy: Aveeno ointment. It's practically orgasmic when you finally discover this, because it's the only thing that helps. It's just that awesome.
posted by misha at 10:42 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

He should avoid seeing the kids and get the vaccine if at all possible. This is not something to fuck around with.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:49 AM on September 11, 2008

You don't want to get Chicken Pox as an adult if you can avoid it. It's a whole other kind of unpleasent, according to a friend of mine.
posted by chunking express at 10:55 AM on September 11, 2008

A roommate of mine got chicken pox as an adult and it was MISERY. Plus her eyesight was ruined. If he can avoid it he ought to. The vision loss was no joke and seems to be permanent.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:57 AM on September 11, 2008

If you are willing to take wikipedia's weigh in, "A person with chickenpox is contagious from one to five days before the rash appears until all blisters have formed scabs. This may take 5 to 10 days.[1] It takes from 10 to 20 days after contact with an infected person for someone to develop chickenpox" - so, if they were taken to the chicken pox infected party within the past five days, they should be golden for the weekend. Not even contagious! Have him grab a calculator and a calendar and figure out their possible contagious-days.

Also, as mentioned before, most kids now-a-days are vaccinated for chicken pox, so they might not even *get* chicken pox. I was never vaccinated and carried to many chicken pox parties by my mother and I reached the ripe age of 25 without nary a pox. He might have the same luck as me? Natural immunity, baby!
posted by banannafish at 11:02 AM on September 11, 2008

I got it at age 24 in my last year of college (don't ask).

IIRC, the experience wasn't so bad, but I was underemployed and could afford to take the 2 weeks off to recover.

Didn't have any scarring and the itching wasn't that bad. Impressive level of breakout on my chest and back though.

The shingles thing is the main reason to avoid it. The virus burrows deep and will come back eventually, in a mechanism that science doesn't understand yet.
posted by troy at 11:24 AM on September 11, 2008

It truly sucks as an adult. You get the lesions on the inside as well as the outside (throat, organs etc) and you can't exactly drink the calamine lotion for relief. I would advise him to avoid the kids at all cost and get the vaccine.

I've had it twice, as a kid and again as an adult (apparently there are different strains in Australia and the UK), and it is far, far worse as an adult.

Natural immunity, baby! I wouldn't bet on, myself. My bf was exposed repeatedly as a kid and only got it aged 26, and he was miserable.
posted by goo at 11:32 AM on September 11, 2008

The shingles thing is the main reason to avoid it. The virus burrows deep and will come back eventually, in a mechanism that science doesn't understand yet.
posted by troy at 11:24 AM on September 11 [+] [!]

Huh? It's true that only people who've had chickenpox get shingles, but most people who had chickenpox as children don't get shingles. You make it sound like every person who's ever had chickenpox will eventually develop shingles. It's not inevitable. Shingles is fairly common, but not pandemic.

To the OP: if it's too late for the vaccine, he might ask his doctor for a prescription for Acyclovir or Valtrex.
posted by Violet Hour at 11:35 AM on September 11, 2008

Also look up Ramsay-Hunt Syndrome, another lovely effect from the gift-that-keeps-on-giving. I am personally acquainted and it is teh sux0r. "Chicken Pox parties" should be a thing of the past that are treated with revulsion IMHO, but I don't know enough about pediatric care for that opinion to matter much....
posted by dragstroke at 11:56 AM on September 11, 2008

I had it when I was thirty.

He needs to avoid it at all costs. What generally is a mild illness in a child (my kids had it and gave it to me) is worse than the flu for a grownup. And it really is true that adults are more prone to have complications with it (thankfully I didn't but it was certainly bad enough.)

Have him give his doc a call.
posted by konolia at 12:21 PM on September 11, 2008

Nthing "he doesn't want to get it". I had it at 19 and I was in bed for a week, terrified it would get into my eyes and I'd go blind. At 39 I still show some scars. It's worth his missing some parenting time to keep from getting sick.

The kids have been taken to a chicken pox party by his separated wife, so should all have chicken pox by now. If she did this without his knowledge/consent, she can damn well care for them until this has passed.

(grumble grumble non-vaccinating peckerheads grumble grumble)
posted by shiny blue object at 12:41 PM on September 11, 2008

Seriously, he needs to get the exact dates and figure out of the kids - ANY of the kids - are contagious. He does not want to get this as an adult. He may begrudge missing this one weekend, but if he doesn't and ends up with pox, the chances are very high that he'll miss at least one, different weekend anyway. Oh, and a ton of work days, too.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:52 PM on September 11, 2008

Thank you everybody for your information and experiences!! I've been passing on the information, and I think he's getting the message.

On another note, I do want to impress that this WASN'T due to a chicken pox party like I had thought and put in the addendum. Just being around other kids who happened to have chicken pox normally.

Either way, it sounds like he should avoid it to be sure.
posted by tittergrrl at 12:53 PM on September 11, 2008

Having played nurse to someone who got chicken pox in her mid-twenties, he needs to avoid it like the plague..... cuz it IS a plague! She was in complete misery and almost had to go to the hospital. She couldn't get out of bed for a week for more than going to the bathroom and even that required assistance. Adults have a hard time bouncing back from chicken pox and are often left with permanent damage like vision loss and even sterilization.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:06 PM on September 11, 2008

This thread makes me want to never go near children again.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:12 PM on September 11, 2008

What's a chicken pox party? I don't remember any of these.
posted by greta simone at 1:31 PM on September 11, 2008

I had the pox when i was in my mid-20s. It was the absolute sickest I've ever been. Tell him to stay away from the kids at all costs.

@greta - a chicken pox party is when one kid gets the pox and some parents get together and send their kids over the the pox kid's house to play to deliberately expose their children so they will just get it when they are a kid and get it overwith.
posted by nomad73 at 2:25 PM on September 11, 2008

I had chicken pox one summer while in college. It wasn't that bad; the doctor gave me tylenol with codeine, and I pretty much just lay on the couch and watched the Iran-Contra hearings (now I've really dated myself). YCPMV.
posted by mogget at 2:53 PM on September 11, 2008

I got chicken pox as a kid. I had quarter-sized lesions on the outside and inside of my body. It was awful. My aunt (just a few years older) got it and nearly died.

Moreover, if he gets it, he won't be in a position to take care of his kids and it could be deadly. He should wait out the incubation period and get vaccinated, so that this doesn't happen again. (I hope his kids were vaccinated at 12 months.)

And, if he does get it, he could end up being responsible for spreading it to pregnant women or children under a year (ie too young to vaccinate) when it's still incubating and he doesn't know he has it. So better to avoid it.
posted by acoutu at 8:07 PM on September 11, 2008

A chicken pox party? I don't get it. My advice is to tell your friend to do his/her best to stay away from the pox. Even when I had it as a child it was misery. I don't understand purposefully exposing your children to a contagious disease. Silly me.
posted by wv kay in ga at 11:58 PM on September 11, 2008

A chicken pox party? I don't get it.

Sometimes parents will cart their kids off to some kids house to play if that kid has chicken pox, in the hope that their kid gets it too. (Since Chicken Pox is pretty harmless when you're small, the idea is you get it then so that you are immune when you're older. Of course, my brother got it twice. Sucker.)
posted by chunking express at 6:17 AM on September 12, 2008

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