Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chicken pox, vaccines and getting sick in Sweden

This winter has meant the chicken pox for our little Swedamerican family, and let me tell you, it has been an adventure.

In the US, the chicken pox vaccine is on the list of required vaccines to start school. In Sweden, it is not. (Thanks, Reinfeldt!)

My own thoughts about the chicken pox previously have been thus: It’s not a big deal. I had it. My brother had it. We all lived to tell about it. There are worse things in life – even if I had a pretty terrible case of it as a teenager.

We decided not to push for our kids to get the vaccine, unless they didn’t get the pox by the time they hit double digits.

The Swede, on the other hand, got the vaccine, as no one could remember if he had gotten the pox when he was a kid. We just had to pay out of pocket to get it done, it was not hard.

Anyways, Little Swede came down with the pox on New Years Eve. Sadly, we did not notice until New Year’s Day. Perhaps this makes us negligent. Let’s just say I noticed two pox right before he went to bed, had a quick flash of ‘I hope that is not….’ and then the next day he was covered.

Poor thing.

But having now gotten thru one 4 year old and one 1 year old with chicken pox in the course of a month, let me just say that I think the chicken pox vaccine is awesome. If I had to do it again I would be banging down the door of my BVC to get that shot faster.

Yes, maybe young kids do have it easier, but it was still really bloody awful. Little Swede was up watching Go Diego Go marathons at 4 am because it was the only thing that kept him from crying. I walked baby Swede around the house in the carrier for hours on end, all night long, because it was the only way he would sleep.

Also, since very few American kids still get the chicken pox, there is very little Internet crap about what actually happens when you do get the chicken pox. There is, for example, this moment on day 2-3 when you think ‘Oh, this is not going to be so bad’ before all hell breaks loose. And then there aren’t like 576 photographs of what it looks like when it is done --- ‘wait until they scab over’ they say, but it took quite a long time for them ALL to scab over, like 10 days.

At the end of the whole thing, Little Swede seems to have made it thru with only one scar on his face, and baby Swede seems to have made it thru in one piece. The Swede and I seem to have made it thru a week without more than an hour sleep in a row. And we are all, yes, maybe the stronger for it. But, a vaccine against all of that would have been nice, too.


  1. Poor baby... and the kids too ofcourse. ;)

  2. Thank you for your blog. As I prepare to move to Stockholm it is very valuable information. A pox vaccine may also prevent shingles down the road?

    1. Yes, but in will take 30-50 years. Until then there willa ctually be MORE cases of shingles. Not among the vaccinated, but among adults who have had chicken pox but who no longer get there immune sysmstem boosted by meeting kids with the virus. This is already the case in the US. However, it is a passing stage and later there will be fewer cases.

  3. We live in Denmark, which also doesn't include varicella in the routine vaccination schedule. My older son, now 5, was able to get his 2nd vaccine a bit early (at age 4) in the U.S. before we moved here, but my younger son was 6 months old at the time of our move and too young for his first dose. I just crossed my fingers for our first 18 months here that he would avoid it until we got back to the states earlier this month where I not only got him his first varicella vaccine dose, but also 3 others not routinely given in Denmark: pneumococcal, hepatitis, A, and influenza (they don't give the vaccine to kids here). He still may end up with chicken pox during the next chicken pox season here, but hopefully if he does, it will at least be a milder case!

  4. I am glad your kids got better in no time! Don't regret not vaccinating, 10 days of struggle might have saved you problems for generations to come, you can never be to sure about the vaccine risks.

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