Monday, March 25, 2013
Posts have been thin on the ground for the last few weeks. After the grant applications were submitted, illness came knocking. First Dear Boy was hit with Hand, Foot and Mouth (HFM); two weeks later he scored a case of Roseola. Both are considered common and minor childhood illness but they've still managed to make us feel like we're living in a house of pestilence.
Last week I posted about vaccinating our son, the reasons why we are pro-vaccinations and the hope that we'd never have to have, cause or even see preventable and potentially life-threatening childhood illness. Seeing my son covered in Roseola's faint red rash is horrifying enough. Even knowing roseola is a mild viral rash and never fatal, it's scary. Bloody scary. The fact that it could have been much worse, that it could have been measles or rubella, makes me feel sick.
I thought, in the interests of share-and-share-alike and perhaps allaying another new parent's fears, I'd talk about our recent go-round with HFM and Roseola.* If you're already feeling itchy looking at these pictures, perhaps you should stop reading.
HFM: This one started as a few spots that got bigger and redder around Dear Boy's thighs and bum. I thought 'nappy rash'; it was in a bit of a weird spot for him but slathered on a bit of Sudocrem, and off we went to the library for some Baby Rhymes. After a few rounds of 'Wheels on the Bus' and 'Little Green Frog (Galumph)', Dear Boy was getting fractious, grizzling and rubbing at his face and hair. A quick nappy change and that nappy rash wasn't looking so much like nappy rash anymore. A quick check of his hands and feet and we were straight into the car. A completely illegal phone call at the lights and we were in to see our lovely GP. Even though he only had a few spots on his hands and feet, and none that we could see in his mouth (thank goodness), it was definitely HFM. Apparently it's the only thing that can cause spots on the palms of the hands like that. The doc recommended a (low percentage) hydrocortisone cream for the itchy bits and that was it. Nothing else to be done. Dear Boy had a very mild case - no spots around or in his mouth, no real symptoms beforehand (generally showing up like a cold with fever, malaise, loss of appetite or a sore throat), no blisters and not a lot of complaining about the itching. Of course, he still had to be quarantined from childcare, although that was most likely where he scored it from. In our state, kids are excluded from school and care until the blisters have dried out.
So, is HFM contagious? Yep, sure is. Pretty much anything wet coming out of that body is going to spread it around: saliva, sneeze/cough-droplets, snot, blister fluid, poo - you name it.
Is it life-threatening? In very rare cases, yep. I didn't find out until much later that it can cause viral meningitis, encephalitis or polio-like paralysis. But again, that's exceedingly rare. So rare, they call it a mild and common disease.
Can it make your/child's life miserable? Yep, sure can. I imagine blisters anywhere near the mouth are going to be, literally and figuratively, a complete pain. We had this one fairly easy.
ROSEOLA: Dear Boy's bout of Roseola started with a fever in the middle of the night. He woke every 30-40 minutes from 3am, growing hotter and more cranky. We gradually stripped him of bedding and clothing but by 7am he'd hit 39.2 degrees (celcius - 102.5 for those playing in Farenheit). Dear Boy normally runs at around 37. We supplied him with paracetamol and cold wash-clothes until his temp came down to 37.8. We called the child health hotline and they supplied us with the new guidelines for treating fever - which are, apparently, 'don't'. Anything under 39.5, and the new medical professionals are advising to let the kids fight it out themselves - let the body do its thing. The next night, the same thing happened - a temperature spike and multiple wakings. How the hell do you dress a child for bed when it's somewhat cold but their body is on overdrive? By the third day, and a peak of 39.6 (and multiple doses of paracetamol and ibuprofen - because screw the guidelines when it comes to my boy's brain melting), we headed to the doc. 'A virus' - nothing to worry about. But probably don't go and visit the newborn baby if his temp's still up. The next day his temp dropped to 37. 5, then to 36. 9. The day after that: rash. Those photos up there - that's my baby's body as it currently stands, sits, crawls and walks. A faint, red, spotty, almost lacy rash all over my baby's beautiful smooth, soft, olive skin. Not surprisingly, the rash is often mistaken for measles or rubella. And given the fact that these diseases are now making a comeback, it makes me feel ill to see it all over my boy's chest and back. Once the fever came down, there's really not much to be done for Roseola. The rash doesn't appear to be itchy at all.
So, is Roseola contagious? Yep, sure is. Except, and here's the kicker with most things like this, it's contagious before you even know you have it. Once the rash appears, it's no longer contagious. Before then, it's treated like a virus because there are generally no other symptoms apart from a bit of irritability - and hey, what baby doesn't get a little irritable now and then? Again, it's spread through droplets - sneezing, coughing, etc. It's caused by a herpes virus (but won't cause other herpes effects like cold sores) and 90% kids have been exposed to it by the time they're two. So yeah, it's contagious. It's not an excludable illness according to the Australian government (not even listed on the Victorian government site) although I imagine that's because of the reasons above - once you figure out what it is, it's no longer contagious.
Is it life-threatening? Well, it's kinda hard to tell. The major complication with Roseola is the potential for febrile convulsions due to rapid spikes in temperature. These are incredibly scary (I know, I've being holding a child in my arms when he had his first one on his first birthday) but not fatal or damaging to the brain. So, I'm going to say no BUT... I imagine a vulnerable child or someone with a compromised immune system may have other issues.
Can it make your/child's life miserable? Yep, it sure can. Even knowing his body is doing its thing and functioning as it should by raising its temperature to fight off a virus, it was bloody scary. He was also whingey and clingy and we didn't get great sleep for a few days. In the larger scheme of things though, that's not so bad. Once we had our diagnosis, it was a huge relief. Knowing it wasn't going to melt his brain was a huge relief. Not knowing sucks. Majorly.
Neither of these viruses have a vaccination and neither have a 'cure' or even a medical treatment. Do they need one? Maybe science can field that one.
Has your child had something that scared the hell out of you? Did it turn out to be something 'mild'?
* I am by no means a medical expert. This is based on our experience of symptoms as well as the advice given to us by our doctor/medical advisors for our specific case and information provided by the Victorian government health websites/guidelines. If you are at all concerned about your child's health - always seek advice from medical professionals - several, if you have to.