‘It Could Have Been Fatal’: Mum’s Scary Warning about Chickenpox and Ibuprofen

Did you know that if your child contacts chickenpox, you should steer clear of Ibuprofen or Nurofen to manage the symptoms?

A mum is sharing her scary story after her son Tommy came down with chickenpox as a reminder to all parents to keep this very important tidbit of info in mind if you’re ever faced with this virus.  

As shared on Tiny Hearts Education, a mum explains how her toddler son, Tommy, contracted chickenpox – quite mild at first. There is no indication of whether Tommy was vaccinated for the varicella virus. However, keep in mind that even if vaccinated, children can still catch it (it’s very rare though). 

As the mum shared with Tiny Hearts Education,

Tommy contracted chickenpox and you wouldn’t of known. He was his happy joyful self, until Sunday evening he went down hill, raging temperature and very sleepy.

Monday evening I took him to the hospital who also confirmed he could only have paracetamol and sent us home at 3am with no other help or guidance.

The following day, he was much worse, wasn’t keeping any food or fluids down – temperature still through the roof and still very sleepy.. so I headed to another hospital for a second opinion.”

Tommy was seen by a nurse at the second hospital who told the mum that she could mix ibuprofen and paracetamol together – alternating the two medicines to help keep the fever down. 

Now, unlike me, this mum had heard that you should never administer ibuprofen for treating chickenpox. She had heard it from friends and family in the past and it was just something that stuck in her mind.

chickenpox and ibuprofen warning
Source: Tiny Hearts Education

Chickenpox and ibuprofen dangers – an old wives’ tale? 

When she brought this up with the nurse, he replied with,

It was an “old wives tale” and you shouldn’t believe everything you see on Google…

He also said, “in all his time working in a hospital he’s never seen ibuprofen react to chickenpox”.

He reassured me that it was fine to do so…. I trusted him; He’s the one with the degree right? So he administered 1 dose to Tommy.”

Before taking the Nurofen, Tommy had a few spots but none of them looked too terrible. Just a few hours after the medication, his mum noticed a mark on Tommy’s belly. She asked the nurse and he assured her it was just another pox forming and sent them home. 

The following morning at 6am was when everything changed.. Tommy woke up to what could only be described as a bruise on his belly, but by 8am this bruise was turning black.”

chickenpox and ibuprofen warning
Source: Tiny Hearts Education

‘1 more dose, it could have been fatal.”

Tommy was rushed back to the doctor who confirmed it was an infection. He drew a mark around his belly to see if it spread.  

By 4pm his entire belly was swollen, black and blue.

why you should never give ibuprofen to children with chickenpox
Tommy’s swollen belly was caused by ibuprofen. Source: Tiny Hearts Education

Tommy was rushed back to the hospital and admitted immediately. However, at this stage the little guy was so sick they couldn’t get an IV line into his system.

They had several failed attempts so had to inject four lots of antibiotics straight into his little thighs.

The next morning another doctor was able to get a line into Tommy and they put him on an intense course of IV antibiotics and fluids.

He became very puffy and swollen all over; however 5 days on we are still here – thankfully to tell the tale!!

The doctors confirmed this morning that Tommy should NEVER have been given ibuprofen and that he is very lucky to still be here. If he would of had one more dose, it could have been fatal.”

The mum shares her son’s story as a way to remind parents of two things:

  1. Always trust your instincts.
  2. Never administer ibuprofen or Nurofen to a child with chickenpox or suspected chickenpox.

Thankfully Tommy is getting better day by day and this status is purely for awareness so that this doesn’t happen to any other babies.”

Thank you for sharing this message – I, for one, had no idea about this and am so glad I now know! 

Why is Nurofen dangerous for children with chickenpox?

Ibuprofen or Nurofen is considered an NSAID – a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. 

According to one publication, 

The risk of chickenpox complications may be significantly increased after NSAIDs’ exposure. In particular, NSAIDs are able to promote the development of bacterial super-infection, to mask symptoms, and to cause delayed management.

One of the most common complications chickenpox is represented by skin super-infections, mainly caused by group A streptococcal (GAS) infections, which are also responsible for necrotizing fasciitis (a rapidly progressive inflammatory infection of the fascia) with secondary necrosis of the subcutaneous tissues.”

In other words? Ibuprofen can make symptoms worse and lead to very dangerous skin infections, like the one Tommy experienced. 

Treating chickenpox in children

According to the Royal Children’s Hospital,

  • Treatment is about controlling the itching from the rash and other symptoms related to the viral illness.
  • Medications and creams that you can buy from your local pharmacy can help with the itching.
  • To prevent dehydration, give your child sips of drinks (water is best), jelly, icy poles, soup and other fluids often.
  • Children may have a fever and can feel tired and irritable. Taking paracetamol can help, but do not give your child aspirin or ibuprofen.

What to read next

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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