Now that it is a vaccine-preventable disease, pediatricians don’t often get calls anymore about kids who have been exposed to chicken pox.
Still, since it isn’t eradicated yet, these exposures do still happen from time to time.
What to Do if Your Child Is Exposed to Chicken Pox?
So what do you do if your child is exposed to another child or an adult with chicken pox?
After all, we all know just how contagious chicken pox can be.
Not surprisingly, as with a shingles exposure, the biggest factor that will determine what needs to be done is whether or not your child is immune to chicken pox (primary varicella).
Has your child ever had a natural chicken pox infection or completed a two dose chicken pox vaccine series?
What to Do If Your Unvaccinated Child Is Exposed to Chicken Pox
If your unvaccinated child, or incompletely vaccinated child, who has never had chicken pox is exposed to chicken pox, you should talk to your pediatrician about getting him vaccinated with the chicken pox vaccine.
The vaccine should be given as soon as possible and preferably within 3 days of the exposure, but it can work even if it is given as long as 5 days afterwards.
“Vaccination within 3 days of exposure to rash was >90% effective in preventing varicella whereas vaccination within 5 days of exposure to rash was approximately 70% effective in preventing varicella and 100% effective in modifying severe disease.”
ACIP on Prevention of Varicella
This post-exposure vaccination can greatly reduce your child’s chances of developing chicken pox and even if your child does develop chicken pox, it should reduce the severity of the disease.
Unfortunately, this strategy is only for kids who are at least 12 months old – those kids who are eligible to get a chicken pox vaccine.
“Varicella vaccine is neither approved nor recommended for children younger than age 12 months in any situation.”Ask the Experts about Varicella
Certain high risk children who aren’t immune should get VariZIG (varicella zoster immune globulin) after being exposed to chicken pox. This includes:
- immunocompromised patients
- hospitalized premature infants born at or after 28 weeks gestation, if their mother wasn’t immune to chicken pox
- hospitalized premature infants born before 28 weeks gestation, even if their mother was immune to chicken pox
- pregnant women who are not immune to chicken pox
VariZIG is given as soon as possible and within 10 days of exposure.
“If VariZIG is not available, IGIV should be considered as an alternative.”Varicella-Zoster Virus Infections (Red Book)
The AAP also advises that “If vaccine cannot be administered and VariZIG/IVIG is not indicated, preemptive oral acyclovir or valaciclovir can be considered.”
Whatever you do, you should watch your child carefully over the next 10 to 21 days for the development of the classic symptoms of chicken pox, including a rash and fever, keeping him quarantined until after this incubation period so that they don’t expose others.
What to Do If Your Vaccinated Child Is Exposed to Chicken Pox
If your child has already had chicken pox or two doses of the chicken pox vaccine, then you can likely safely assume that he is protected if he is ever exposed to chicken pox.
Still, since no vaccine is 100% effective, you should watch your child over the next 10 to 21 days in case they do develop any signs or symptoms of chicken pox.
More on Chicken Pox Exposures
- Does the Chicken Pox Vaccine Protect You from Shingles?
- 10 Myths About Chicken Pox and the Chicken Pox Vaccine
- Who Dies from Chicken Pox?
- What to Do if You Have Shingles?
- What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Measles
- What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Meningitis
- What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to the Flu
- What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Pertussis
- What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Hepatitis A
- What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Hepatitis B
- What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Rabies
- What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Mumps
- IAC – Ask the Experts about Varicella
- Updated Recommendations for Use of VariZIG — United States, 2013
- ACIP – Prevention of Varicella
- AAP – Varicella-Zoster Virus Infections (Red Book)