Chickenpox can have big financial impact

Parents may miss several days of work
  • Deborah Condon

Chickenpox can have a major financial impact on households, with many parents having to take several days off work to look after their sick children, new research has found.

According to the findings, 37% of parents had to take between four and six days off work to look after their children, while 23% had to take off at least seven days.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the average daily income in Ireland per person is €146.37. This translates to a loss in earnings of between €585 and €878 for those taking four to six days off, and a loss of over €1,000 for those who take seven days off.

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus. Those affected develop a rash of red, itchy spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters. These crust over to form scabs, which eventually drop off. Some children only develop a few spots, while others can develop them all over their bodies.

Chickenpox is easily spread through the coughs and sneezes of someone who is infected. It is most infectious from one to two days before the rash starts, until all the blisters have crusted over (usually five to six days after the start of the rash).

While chickenpox is generally considered a mild illness, children can feel very unwell with it and their spots can be very itchy. They may find it difficult not to itch, which can lead to their skin becoming infected.

The research found that the vast majority of adults are aware of the risks and complications associated with chickenpox, and 13% claimed that their child had been impacted by its complications.

Commenting on the findings, GP, Dr Nick Flynn, said that chickenpox is an illness that GPs encounter ‘on a regular basis'.

"While incidences of complications as a result of chickenpox may not be very common, they can be very serious. More frequently however, parents are forced to take as many as seven to 10 days off work to care for a sick child, on top of the cost of treatments, GP visits, transportation and more.

"From my own personal experience these costs often come as a surprise to families, and can sometimes pose a real strain on parents," Dr Flynn said.

Meanwhile, the research found that when it comes to caring for sick children, women take on much more of this burden than men. Nine in 10 Irish women said that they are the primary caregiver at home when a child becomes ill, while 56% said they are more likely than their partner to take days off work to look after a sick child.

The research was carried out by Empathy Research on behalf of MSD Ireland. For more information on chickenpox, click here.


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