Chickenpox parties are so passe, thankfully

Q: My son is 5 years old and just started school. He hasn't had the chickenpox yet, but I'm sure he'll get it eventually. I know some parents actually expose their children to kids with chickenpox so they can catch it and get it over with. Is this safe? Do you suggest I do that?

A: Great news! Your child does not have to get chickenpox. The need for chickenpox parties is over.

Now, the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine is one of the regular childhood shots, and kids are able to avoid the effects of the chickenpox disease.

If your child is current on vaccines, he should already have had two chickenpox vaccines. The first of the two doses is given at the 1-year-old exam. The booster dose is given at the 4-year-old exam. Neither dose can be given early.

So if his 4-year-old exam was squeezed in the week before his birthday and the 5-year-old exam has yet to occur, he may be due for the booster dose.

Q: My baby is almost 2. She has eczema on her hands and feet. I have been using 1 percent hydrocortisone and Eucerin lotion on her for a week, but don't see that it helps. I understand that 1 percent hydrocortisone contains a steroid that is not recommended to be used for more than a week. Could you please advise if there is anything I can do to help my baby?

A: First, check to see if you're using new skin products, fabric softeners or detergents. You want to avoid scents and perfumes in any of these. New foods could also be the cause.

As for treatment, using a low-potency steroid ointment like the 1 percent hydrocortisone and a good moisturizer like Eucerin is a great start. Be sure to dampen the skin before using the moisturizer in order to trap in the water.

However, if it's been a week and there is no relief, she should probably see a pediatrician. Depending on the severity of the skin problem, stronger ointments and oral medications may help. You also want to make sure it is not infected.

In addition, ask the doctor about other possible diagnoses, including contact dermatitis and acropustulosis of infancy. A child can easily get contact dermatitis by walking around barefoot and touching things. Acropustulosis of infancy (another rash on the hands and feet that usually self-resolves) is more common in her age group than the dyshidrotic eczema that occurs on the hands and feet.

Dr. Diana Blythe is a board-certified pediatrician. Write to her at

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