I hate it when kids are poorly. Over the years we’ve had a variety of illnesses, and the kids have all developed their own unique ways of being ill.
My eldest first got ill at the age of 6 months. He started nursery on a Thursday, he went again on the Friday and was ill on the Saturday and missed the following Monday. He had a chest infection and ear infection and it was horrible to see him so poorly.
And so began the pattern of the next couple of years. He was going to nursery three days a week and would be ill every four weeks throughout the winter. Then this settled down to just one illness a year – always in February. He would have a temperature of around 39 – it would never go over 39.5 – and would always be ill for four days.
Going to nursery and being exposed to all those germs meant he got all his illness out of the way pretty much by the time he started school. He is in his seventh year at school and in all that time he has had just FIVE days off ill – and two of those were recovering from an operation.
My younger son had his first chest infection at the age of four weeks – the joys of having a big brother bringing home germs from nursery.
After that he wasn’t ill as often as his brother, but when he was ill he was more ill. His temperature would hit the magical 40 – at which point children fade away until they’re barely there at all – and he would have very painful, intense headaches. On the plus side, his illnesses tended to be shorter lived.
Twice with these mysterious illness he ended up at the hospital – once in the children’s ward for assessment and once for assessment on A&E. At the age of just 3 I carried him, already very big and heavy, into the doctor’s, barely conscious and boiling hot. He had a rash, which although blanching was an additional concern for the GP, so he was packed off to the children’s ward. By the end of the day he was playing with the toys in the playroom with a big smile on his face.
Like his brother, he has hardly been ill since he started school. Although his 75% attendance by day 12 of year 1 was pretty poor – one day with a temperature and two days for the legendary tooth incident (see The whole tooth in September).
And then there’s my daughter. My little girl wasn’t ill at all until she was 15 months and got chicken pox. She was pretty spotty, but my memory of her having chicken pox is of her smiling and laughing – playing with water in the garden with her big brother and tipping it all over herself.
After that, she made up for lost time. The following summer she had tonsillitis three times in the space of three months. The first time, it made her sick. She’d never even been sick before. She was horrified and shouted ‘clean it!’ – not bad for a poorly girl who was a slow learner when it came to talking. Her temperature hit 40 and she refused medicine. So NHS Direct told me to put her in a lukewarm bath for 20 minutes. Needless to say, this was the middle of the night. She screamed the whole time. I kept saying ‘I’ll get you out if you have your medicine’ and she kept refusing. I wasn’t even allowed to dry her when she got out. Eventually the temperature started to come down and we watched the sun rise as it hit 37.
I’ve repeated this technique a number of times since, but now it’s been outlawed. When she was ill last year – and in the bath in the middle of the night as I rang NHS Direct in desperation – they told me they don’t recommend it because it cools the skin and the rest of the body warms up to compensate! So you’re not allowed to ‘tepid bathe’ any more either.
She made it through that first bout of tonsillitis without antibiotics – not because I’m a hippy chick who doesn’t believe in them, but because she’s awkward and refused them. When it came back four weeks later, I have no doubt that was because she hadn’t had antibiotics, so I was much firmer with her and forced her to take them.
My daughter’s illnesses all follow the same pattern. She wakes at normal time with a temperature of 38 and maybe a slight headache. I give her Calpol and the temperature comes down quickly. I keep her off school, but by mid-morning, I wonder why – surely she’s well enough for school. She will sit chatting, maybe we will go for a walk. Then something changes, by the time the boys come home from school it has turned into a medical emergency with a 40 degree temperature and her barely conscious. And so it continues for several days, leaving me stressed out and traumatised.
Most kids get ill in winter. My daughter gets ill in summer. The summer after the tonisilitis summer, at the age of 3, she had three nasty viruses in three months – one of which was almost certainly swine flu. She was one of the first people in the county to get it – lucky her. And lucky me. Like her brother before her, she was packed off to the children’s ward for a day’s observation before being sent home with strict instructions to keep dosing her up with Calpol and ibuprofen. Easier said than done.
One thing my family doesn’t get much (thank the Lord, touch wood) is sickness bugs. My eldest has had one in his life and my younger son has had two. Until this year, my daughter hadn’t had any. Then she had two in two months this summer, with a temperature/ virus thing in between.
In Reception, my daughter had SIX days off – one chest infection (would have turned into over a week off if we hadn’t had snow days), one sickness bug and the virus/ temperature thing. The other sickness bug timed it right and she was ill at the start of the weekend. (I didn’t breach the 48 hour rule!)
Now I’m hoping she’s going to settle down like her brothers and not get poorly any more. Here’s to a healthy 2012!