Hoping for health

Oof!  These past few weeks have been reminiscent of three years ago.  G was a baby and in a childcare center, and he was sick ALL the time (his exhausted, sleep-deprived parents didn’t fare much better).  That was followed by two winters of relatively good health (which is the norm for us) — first, the year G was home with me, and then last year, when he was with a small, home-based caregiver.  Nothing like jumping back into the germ pool that is lots of little kids together in one place!

First we had the flu virus that [likely] led to the secondary pneumonia infection.  Matthew and I had milder versions of the influenza-ish virus — no pneumonia, but it did linger in our sinuses for a bit.  Time, rest, and regular neti-ing seems to have finally done the trick for us.

We no sooner recovered from that than G was hit with a 24-hour stomach bug.*  I’ll spare you the details.  We ramped up hand washing, and I did more loads of laundry in two days than I usually do in a month!  Matthew and I had vague, “don’t feel great, but not really sick” symptoms during those 24-48 hours — headache, low appetite, and intermittent, low-level nausea.

To add to the fun, on Friday, when G was with my MIL, she called and said she was concerned that he might have a UTI.  Ugh, not what I wanted to hear!  Based on the symptoms, we went ahead and made an appointment with the doctor.

UPDATED: Just realized I forgot to finish this . . . .  The UTI scare turned out to be a false alarm.  Instead of antibiotics, we left with a diagnosis of irritated skin at the tip of his penis and a “prescription” for daily warm baths, sans soap.  We made the most of the doctor appointment by confirming that his lungs were, indeed, clear of pneumonia (he was much more cooperative this time!).

We thought we were out of the woods, and, where January had been “the month of sick,” I [prematurely] declared February the month of health.  We made it three days into the month, and then it was Matthew’s turn for the full-blown version of G’s stomach bug (or maybe it was a different one, who knows???  There are so many fun options from which to choose!).

Now that M and G have both had a stomach bug, I feel like there’s a dark cloud over my head.  I’ve felt a bit “off,” but it may just be the power of suggestion.  I won’t make any more declarations about us being healthy, but I’m sure hoping for a better month!

*It’s a pet peeve of mine when people talk about the “stomach flu.”  It’s a common phrase, but there is no such thing.  There are a variety of organisms (viruses, bacteria, and parasites) that can cause gastrointestinal issues, with various symptoms and durations, but these have nothing to do with influenza. The general term for these illnesses is gastroenteritis, which just means inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (that inflammation leads to the characteristic symptoms, which may include nausea, cramping, vomiting, and/or diarrhea).  These “stomach bugs” are usually transmitted by eating contaminated food (people often blame the last thing they ate before they got sick, but in reality, many of these bugs have long incubation times), or by the fecal-oral route.  On the other hand, influenza is a respiratory virus (think nasty cold, with body aches and fever).  End rant.


Diagnosis and drugs

After some debate mid-week last week on whether or not Gabriel needed to see a doctor, I decided to call our pediatrician’s office and run things by the nurse.  It turned out they did want to see him.  I hesitated, expecting I would spend a decent bit of money and time (sitting in a place full of other sick kids) just to be told that it was a virus and would clear soon.  But we were headed into a weekend (a 3-day weekend at that), and I didn’t want to end up in the E.R. if we were dealing with a secondary infection, so I made an appointment for that afternoon.

I arrived with a rather chipper little boy who had not had a fever all day.  When we finally saw the doctor (I really like our pediatrician, but I really dislike the wait times in that office!), he spent a loooooooooong time listening to G’s lungs.  Or, rather, trying to listen to G’s lungs, while the patient squirmed and wriggled.

In the end, the doctor couldn’t get a great read on things, due to patient non-compliance (in retrospect, the behavior might have been partially due to pain he experienced while taking a deep breath).  After coughing, G’s lungs mostly sounded good, except for one spot in his lower right lung, which was maybe okay, but maybe not.  Based on that, our ped made a “soft diagnosis” (his words) of pneumonia and sent us home with a prescription for azithromycin (Z-pac, except the liquid, kiddy version).

[When I had pneumonia in middle school, I’m pretty sure the diagnosis was confirmed with an x-ray, but an x-ray was never raised as a possibility here.]

I was less than thrilled with the uncertain diagnosis and the prescription of a pretty hard-hitting antibiotic, especially given Gabriel’s seemingly-improved state.  I filled the prescription, but we decided to take a wait-and-see approach.

All was good for the next 24-hours: no fever, improved mood and energy, and improved appetite (still a runny nose and a cough, but coughs often linger for quite awhile).  We were able to get outside and take advantage of the beautiful weather on Saturday morning, and I thought we had dodged the antibiotic bullet.

Not so fast.  Late Saturday afternoon, Gabriel’s temperature spiked again, and we decided it was time for the drugs.   He spent the evening on the couch, feeling rotten, and ate next-to-nothing for dinner.

We put him to bed, and there was some coughing in the first few hours, but he settled down to quiet sleep, and then, miraculously, 4:30am came and went with NO coughing! (He’d started coughing around that time every morning for the previous seven days, semi-asleep, but unable to stop coughing until he got up.)

Since then, he’s been fever-free and more-or-less cough-free at night.  He’s clearly feeling better overall, and his appetite is back.  [He barely ate at all last week, which is not his usual, and he wasn’t even interested in noodles (as much as he’s a great eater, under normal circumstances, he would eat noodles day and night if we let him.)]  This is enough evidence for me that there was something bacterial going on and that the antibiotic was warranted.

He took his final dose of the azithromycin yesterday (PSA: If you start taking antibiotics, finish the whole darn course).  Other than some loose stools, his body seems to be tolerating the drug.  In general, I think antibiotics are still over-prescribed, but it’s good to have them there (and effective) when you need them!


I pride myself on having a good immune system — I rarely succumb to sickness, and, when I do, my symptoms are generally mild and of short duration.  While there may be factors beyond my control (do genetics play a role in avoiding/contracting acute illnesses like the common cold???), my healthy lifestyle, including a nutritious diet with lots of antioxidants from the vegetables, fruit, and legumes, minimal consumption of added sugars and processed foods, exercise, and getting enough sleep, certainly contributes to my general state of health.  Well, pride sleep deprivation goeth before a fall, as they say.

I blame sleep deprivation, stress, and all those snotty-nosed little ones at The Dude’s daycare for my current state.  Unfortunately, this also marks The Dude’s first cold, and most of my tried-and-true cold-symptom-alleviating/duration-shortening methods don’t work for babies:

  • Pounding liquids — You can’t really force a baby to drink more, and doing so is not advisable anyway.
  • Hot tea with honey — NO HONEY for babies, or tea for that matter, really.
  • Neti pot — not sure how old he’ll have to be before he can use this blue pot.
  • Gargling with salt water (not just an old wives’ tale)
  • Blowing nose, clearing throat and spitting, or other methods of expelling the gunk

That said, we are trying a few things:

  • Administering saline nasal drops, as described here
  • Using a nasal aspirator
  • Running a humidifier
  • Making use of the steamy bathroom

Strangely enough, The Dude seems much more amenable to the last two options.  He believes that the first two surely spring from ancient torture techniques, thus necessitating the involvement of both parental units.

It’s only been a couple of days now, but I’m not sure that anything helps him much.  I also realized that while I can observe some symptoms, like coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose, I would never know if he had a sore throat (which has plagued me) — talk about feeling helpless!

Bread & tomatoes, illness on the side

Sick + Writer’s block + Entertaining + Tiring week at work (last week) = not much blogging around this place.

While I have a relatively high pain tolerance, I don’t do sick well.  This has been the kind of mildly sick where I’m still able to function, albeit at a slightly reduced level.

Saturday night I passed out on the couch at some early hour, abandoning Matthew to start the bread making on his own.  This resulted in a new note on our whole wheat bread recipe: “Do not start at 9 o’clock at night.”  Even though he was only getting the dough together so it could have a long first rise on our cool back porch overnight, he didn’t make it to bed until after midnight.  (I moved from the couch to the bed sometime before then, pausing only to brush my teeth, no energy for flossing or neti-ing.)

Sadly, the bread did not turn out as well as it has in the past.  Still good, just not the “We should open a bakery and sell this for $5 a loaf” quality that we were expecting.  The bread served as the base for some very-late-season Caprese Salad Sandwiches last night.

We’re slowly working our way through the last of the garden tomatoes.  We (and by we, I pretty much mean Matthew’s mom) harvested a boatload of tomatoes a few weeks back and they’ve been slowly ripening (as well as slowly rotting, in a few unfortunate cases) in boxes in our living room ever since.

A few of the things that we’ve done with the tomatoes:

  • Roasted tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce (we need to make more)
  • Tomato tart (the crust has some serious butter)
  • Pizzas
  • And, of course, the Caprese Salad Sandwiches

My usual recourse for ripening tomatoes (and other unripe fruit) is a paper bag, but we had way too many tomatoes for that.  Instead, we set the tomatoes in single layers in cardboard boxes and covered them with newspaper — fast to arrange and easy to keep an eye on them.