Many of us who are moms remember getting chickenpox as a kid. Maybe we remember the chickenpox as a few days of itchiness. Or our moms reminding us not to scratch the red bumps. Or that calamine bath that we had to take.
But many of us don't remember chickenpox as that big of a deal. Sure, it was itchy. Sure, some of us have a few scars from those lingering blisters. And sure, we might very well have shingles someday, but chicken pox was just chickenpox, right?
Sadly, that's just not always the case. One family is sharing their toddler's death from chickenpox as a way to spread awareness about some of the complications that can arise from the condition–and to educate other parents what symptoms they should look out for.
Stuart and Liz Tagg from Greater Manchester shared the story of what happened with their two-year-old son, Thomas, after he became sick with the chickenpox. Because their other son had also recently had the chicken pox, the parents didn't really think much of it at first. His daycare had sent him home sick and when the parents noticed he had spots on him, they cared for him the best they could.
Stuart related that they worked to keep him comfortable with shorts and T-shirts as his fever burned. They left him in the caring hands of other family members as they worked. On the day Thomas passed, Stuart said he came home to find Thomas eating some grapes. So at the time, he mistakenly thought that the toddler was recovering. What happened next was terrifying.
“When I came back, Thomas wasn’t really responding, but I just thought he was falling asleep,” Stuart said. “I put his milk bottle into his hands and he just let go as if he couldn’t grip. I sat him up and he just flopped to the side.”
Stuart called an ambulance and Thomas was rushed to the hospital. But sadly, it was too late. Young Thomas passed away at the hospital. The grieving parents faced doctors, who were initially baffled as to how Thomas had deteriorated so quickly. But blood tests revealed that Thomas had died from sudden cardiac arrest brought on by sepsis, a severe blood infection. It turns out that the chickenpox virus had allowed Thomas to get a Strep A infection, which then spread to his blood, leading to his death. It was just too much for his little body to fight off on his own, and unfortunately, the symptoms of high fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite were all so similar that the parents didn't suspect that anything more serious was wrong.
“Sepsis deaths related to chickenpox are extremely rare, but we still feel passionately about spreading awareness of the symptoms of sepsis, as we hadn’t even heard of it at all,” the father said.
The parents have shared the story of their son's death and remembered the life of the boisterous and loving toddler to urge parents to be aware of any symptoms of chickenpox that could lead to something more serious, as in Thomas's case. According to the Mayo Clinic, parents should seek immediate medical attention if their child displays any of the following symptoms:
If the chickenpox rash spreads to one or both eyes.
If rash gets very red, warm, or tender, which could mean that a second, bacterial infection has set in.
Any dizziness, disorientation, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors, loss of muscle coordination, worsening cough, vomiting, stiff neck, or a fever higher than 102 F (38.9 C).
If the child is less than 6 months old.
And, of course, be sure to make sure everyone who is able to receive the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine in your household is up-to-date on their booster and vaccines. This will help prevent the severity and spread of the disease.