'COVID-19 Parties' Pose Real Danger, Pediatrician Warns
You may have seen stories on the news and social media recently about so-called “COVID parties,” where people are intentionally exposing themselves and/or their children to the novel coronavirus. Over the weekend, news of the death of a patient in his 30s in San Antonio has heightened awareness of this dangerous trend.
According to Nicholas Rister, M.D., an infectious diseases pediatrician at Cook Children’s, anecdotes of COVID-19 parties are circulating the medical community nationwide. While he says we have not seen any confirmed cases of COVID-19 from such gatherings here in Fort Worth, he wants parents to know that we do not recommend intentionally getting COVID-19 given the uncertain benefits and potentially high-risk for harm.
"Historically, getting exposed to a disease as a protective measure is rarely indicated, but has occurred in the not-too-distant past with chickenpox," Dr. Rister explained. “We don’t recommend chickenpox parties now that we have a vaccine, but immunity was lifelong with those antibodies. With COVID-19, the immunity could be temporary and incomplete, so the benefit is unclear and maybe not what families are wishing for.”
He says even though children typically don’t get as sick as adults, there’s still a severe risk that comes being exposed to the disease.
“Most children do well compared to adults, but some kids do very poorly,” he said. “Some kids need to be intubated and end up in the hospital and could die, so just because most kids do well doesn’t mean your child will.”
And knowing which children will do well is still a mystery. Dr. Rister says we still have a lot to learn about COVID-19 and doctors don’t always know why one child ends up extremely ill while another may have mild symptoms.
“It’s hard say your child is truly safe or completely healthy and when exposed to the virus will turn out fine,” he said. “There’s certain cases where we know your child is going to be at a higher risk, like if your child has cancer, but there’s other children, who as far as we knew were completely healthy, but they got very sick and needed to go into the ICU. There’s almost certainly more to that story, but we couldn’t tell there was any other major illness even with lab work being done, so we wouldn’t expect parents to know either.”
We assume parents who may consider sending their child to a “COVID party” may be trying to take some control of a situation that is truly out of their hands. But Dr. Rister says all of that assumed control will go out the window when their child is admitted to the hospital.
“You’re now at the hospital and things can get out of hand pretty fast,” he said. “Especially with the numbers so high right now, this is probably the worst moment to be engaging in that behavior.”
So bottom line is the risk of intentionally exposing yourself or your child to COVID-19 far outweigh any potential reward and should never be considered.
Get to know Nicholas Rister, M.D.
Nicholas Rister, M.D. is a board certified infectious diseases physician at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. He treats the following conditions: central nervous system infections/meningitis/encephalitis, chronic and recurring infections, congenital infections, fevers of unknown origin, hepatitis (including hepatitis B and C), herpes simplex virus, immune deficiency, Kawasaki disease, life-threatening infections, lymphadenitis, Meningococcal disease, osteomyelitis and septic arthritis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, travel-related illness, viral infections (including herpes and cytomegalovirus).
New and existing patients looking to schedule an appointment or consultation with Dr. Rister can call 682-885-1485.