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Toddler is hospitalised with the ‘worst chickenpox ever seen’ after GP receptionist told his mother he didn’t need to see a doctor
Jasper Allen, two (left), from Cambridgeshire, developed chickenpox in July and his mother Sarah, 36, said she phoned the GP practice for an appointment. But she claims the receptionist told her ‘every mother thinks their child has bad chickenpox’ and that seeing a doctor wouldn’t be necessary. A few days later, he was hospitalised after his chickenpox sores became severely infected – and doctors said it was the worst case they had ever seen (top and bottom centre and right). Now, she is calling a vaccination against the disease to be made free for all on the NHS.
A mother who was told her son had the ‘worst case of chickenpox ever seen’ was turned away by a doctor’s surgery just days before.
Jasper Allen spent five days in hospital with his entire body covered in red, raw, itching sores – which became severely infected.
It was so bad his mother Sarah, 36, said doctors considered contacting medical journals as they had never seen such an extreme case.
He was put on an IV drip and given antiviral medication, antibiotics and morphine to help his ravaged body fight the virus.
Mrs Allen claims two days before he required emergency treatment, she was refused an appointment at her local GP surgery because a receptionist did not think the condition was severe enough to warrant a visit.
The mother-of-two is now calling on the Government to make a vaccination against the disease – currently only available to certain children on medical grounds – free for all on the NHS.
Mrs Allen, a nursery manager from St Neots, Cambridegshire, said: ‘Everyone’s reactions in the hospital were just complete shock over how severe it was – the doctors all wanted to come and see this worst ever case of chickenpox.
‘There was even talk about using the pictures for a medical journal.
‘One of the paediatric nurses with 40 years’ experience said she had never seen anything like it.
VACCINE THAT COULD SAVE TEN LIVES A YEAR
Chickenpox infects about 65 per cent of children in Britain before their fifth birthday.
It is caused by a virus known as varicella-zoster, which causes a rash of red, itchy spots that turn into blisters. For the majority of children it is mild – but it can sometimes cause serious problems such as pneumonia or swelling of the brain. It claims the lives of about ten children every year.
A vaccine, called Varilrix, has been available in Britain since 2013, but is only usually given to children and adults who are particularly vulnerable to complications.
Although children are routinely vaccinated in the US, Australia and Germany, the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in 2010 decided the vaccine should not be rolled out to all children.
However, a trial on expanding it to more youngsters is currently being conducted at Southampton.
‘It shouldn’t have affected a healthy two-year-old as badly as it did – imagine how it could have affected a child with a compromised immune system.’
She continued: ‘I was one of those parents who couldn’t wait for my two-year-old to get chickenpox so then it was out of the way – I didn’t think there was any harm in letting him get it.
‘But to see him get it like that and see how it took over his body was just heart-breaking.
‘Nearly every child I’ve ever had in my care has had chickenpox at some point, but never like this.
‘It was definitely not “just chickenpox” and I want people to realise this.’
She said every parent says their child’s chickenpox was bad, but when she shows people pictures of Jasper, none of them can believe just how bad it was.
Mrs Allen also has a five-year-old daughter Poppy with her postman husband Keith, 36.
The couple first noticed a few spots on Jasper in July after he had battled scarlet fever the week before.
The following morning he erupted in hundreds of spots and Mrs Allen called her local GP surgery to book an appointment.
But she claims the receptionist told her ‘every mother thinks their child has bad chickenpox’ and that seeing a doctor wouldn’t be necessary.
When Jasper’s temperature continued to rise, she took him to the same GP surgery and he was prescribed antibiotics and oral medication for an infection.
Several hours later his condition hadn’t improved so Mrs Allen took him to A&E at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon.
There, he was quickly admitted onto the children’s ward and spent five days in hospital on an IV drip and antiviral medication, antibiotics and morphine.
Mrs Allen said: ‘When I first called our local GP’s surgery I spoke to the receptionist to make an appointment for Jasper but when I told her it was chickenpox she said to me “every mother thinks their child has bad chickenpox”.
‘I knew I wasn’t being a neurotic mother – I have two children and have run a nursery and seen hundreds of kids with chickenpox before so I knew this wasn’t normal.
‘They should listen to parents more – we know our babies better than anybody in the world.
She continued: ‘When Jasper was admitted to hospital, it was scary but I was also relieved I was actually being taken seriously and they were doing something about it.
Days later, when Jasper’s temperature soared, she went to A&E where he was immediately admitted to the children’s ward and put on an IV drip and antiviral medication, antibiotics and morphine
‘As we were sat in the waiting room waiting for a bed I could see this redness in his chest spreading all over him before my eyes.
‘We couldn’t hold him for three days because he screamed every time we touched him.
‘It is worse when it’s your own child because all you want is to take the pain away for them, it broke my heart.’
Doctors still do not know why the chickenpox Jasper contracted was so severe and he is undergoing heart scans to make sure there are no lasting effects.
She is now calling on the Government to make the chickenpox vaccination part of the NHS’s routine childhood immunisation schedule so it is automatically available for all children.
She said: ‘We are one of the only countries who do not routinely vaccinate against chickenpox – Europe, the US and Australia all now do.
‘My kids have had all their immunisations but this was not something that ever crossed my mind to vaccinate them against privately.
‘I don’t want this to be a debate about vaccination – I don’t care if you do not want to vaccinate your child, but sign the petition so everyone else has the choice.’
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘Chickenpox is usually a mild illness in children with most recovering quickly.
‘The vaccine is not routinely offered to children although the Government’s expert vaccination advisors are reviewing this.
‘The vaccine aims to protect those who are at risk from serious illness.
‘That’s why it is recommended for children with family members who are undergoing medical treatments such as chemotherapy which can affect immunity.’
CHICKENPOX: WHAT THE NHS ADVISES
There is no cure for chickenpox, and the virus usually clears up by itself without any treatment.
If a child is in pain or has a high temperature (fever), a mild painkiller, such as paracetamol, can be given.
Never give a child aspirin if it is suspected or know they have chickenpox.
Children with chickenpox who take aspirin can develop a potentially fatal condition called Reye’s syndrome, which causes severe brain and liver damage.
Speak to the GP or pharmacist if you are not sure which medicines to give your child.
Source: NHS Choices
A spokesman for Cambridge and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said he was unable to comment upon individual patient cases.
‘However in the event that a child contracts chickenpox, the NHS offers the following advice and information: Chickenpox is usually a mild illness from which most children recover on their own.
‘Symptoms include a high temperature, aches and pains, and a rash of blisters. These usually pass within a week or two, and the blisters dry up and fade.
‘The best treatment is to use soothing creams and/or appropriate doses of paracetamol to ease any discomfort, while keeping your child hydrated by giving them lots to drink.
‘It is highly advisable that parents and carers keep a watchful eye on children who have chickenpox, as complications, although rare, can develop – especially in children who are very young, are on other medications or who may have a weakened immune system.
‘If you are ever concerned about your child’s health then call NHS 111 who can give advice or refer to an appropriate NHS service, including A&E if necessary.
‘The CCG is not responsible for the chickenpox vaccine; this comes under the remit of Public Health England.’