The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Vaccines and Your Baby - Before the Vaccine?

Patrice Sport, parent: I just assumed that it was the chickenpox. So I took him to the doctor, and the doctor said, "He has the chickenpox." I was like, "Oh my God." You know, he's going to have all these marks all over his face. I'm going to have to go to the store and buy the pink Calamine lotion. And we're going to have to do the oatmeal baths and the itching and the crying. So I went home expecting, you know, this big outbreak. And it wasn't. I watched him for a day or two, and, you know, nothing ever happened.

Marina Catallozzi, MD: Some children never even know they have chickenpox. They have no symptoms at all. No blisters, no fever, no problems. But unfortunately, most children aren't so lucky.

Francesca Mattone, parent: Two weeks after Nicky had chickenpox, Matthew started. Matthew really had a lot of chickenpox right from the start. He would get hundreds at a time. And for about four or five days, he had high fevers that never came down. I had him in the tub just to get down the fever 2 or 3 times a day. He didn't even scratch. He just kind of laid in my arms. He was very, very sleepy. I would get him to drink, but he didn't eat. He had chickenpox in his mouth. He had chickenpox inside his ears. He had about 2-300 chickenpox just on his head. And he was just miserable.

Marina Catallozzi, MD: So, typically, children who get chickenpox get about 300 to 500 blisters, fever, and intense itching. But for some, it can be even worse.

Carol Pugh, parent: It was just a normal breakout of chickenpox, and one got severely infected under his arm. But it was just that one chickenpox. That's all it took. It turned into a flesh eating disease. It was just a clear hole. You could see straight to the muscle, which we had to keep bandaged. He was very sick. He could have lost his arm. He could have died. It could have been really bad.

Marina Catallozzi, MD: You know, the story isn't so unusual. Before the vaccine, about 10,000 people were hospitalized and 100 killed by chickenpox every year. But regardless of whether chickenpox causes mild, moderate, or severe disease, almost all children who get chickenpox will be protected against it for the rest of their lives. They're said to be immune. The difference is that children with serious infections pay a very, very high price for their immunity.