Our first illness

This sums up our past week.  C contracted Roseola, aka Baby Measles.  It has taken a lot out of her.  She’s conquered the high fevers, is covered in a light rash that has extended up into her face, is battling and is having to contend with a very tender throat, massively reduced apetite and tires very quickly.

That she caught this was inevitible actually.  Most babies contract this between the ages of 6 months to 2 years of age.  It is a relatively harmless virus in comparison to it’s name sakes of Measles and German Measles. Because it is a virus and not a bacteria it is not treatable, other than providing relief for their sore throats, managing the fever and keeping them adequately hydrated and nourished.  It subsides normally within a few days to a week from when the fever started.

For ‘normal’ children these illnesses are not serious, and as much as I love to try and think of C as a normal child, the reality is that she is, but on the same token she is not. She is after all a surviving micro prem, and as such has an immune system with a massive deficit in comparison to her full term friends.  Her body is building, growing and developing her immune system, but mild illnesses like Roseola, can take a lot more toll on her fragile system than it would under normal circumstances.  Which is why prevention has been critical to us for at least the first year of her life.  As a result of this recent episode we’ve had to postone her very important 9 month vaccinations.

While I cannot contain her in a protective bubble for her entire life, much as I would like to, we do go to incredible lengths to ensure that our daughter is safely guarded from potentially threatening illnesses that could compromise her health and impede her development.  We take great care in ensuring that anything we bring home from public spaces is wiped down and cleaned, we religiously ensure that we have access to hand sanitizer to keep our own hands clean before touching her after being in public spaces, we do not allow anyone who is ill to enter our home, environment or be in contact with her.  Our close friends and family know to inform us if mutual guests at a function are ill or if they are ill themselves.  I socialise with a group of moms who are aware of our circumstances and respect our relentless need to keep C from harmful illnesses.  I have gone as far as interrogating venues about their cleaning regimes for their soft play areas.  I. AM. THAT. MOTHER.

So, when my child contracted a virus that she should not have been exposed to yet, I got raging mad.  Roseola is highly contagious, particularly in children with poor immune systems and is predominantly spread through direct contact. When one considers that 90% of babies who contract Roseola show a visible rash, have high fevers and exhibit symptoms of being ill, then I would assume the parents are aware that their child is ill.  The virus is also only contagious once symptoms have exhibited themselves.  Yet somehow they saw fit to allow their child to socialise with other children, without divulging their childs health status.

All too often I’m reminded that children need to be exposed to germs, and I don’t disagree one bit.  But when you have been placed in the position of having an immune compromised child you quickly learn that an immune system is something which is built up slowly over time and age, not only exposure.  How and when they are exposed is something we don’t always have control over, but where we can we need to protect them, particularly in the first few months of their young lives.  Some children take longer for various reasons, this is why some react worse to certain illnesses than others. Their bodies need to time to strengthen and learn to cope over time with the introduction of bacteria, germs and various viruses.

So, when your darling seems to handle a cold, flu, virus or bacterial infection like a champion, don’t be so naive as to think that all other children will cope as well as yours did, or that you are doing them a favour by helping other children by exposing them to germs to build their immune system (as I’ve heard one mother justify herself).  Consider the remote possibility, that amongst the sea of fresh faced smiling tots in the play park or kiddies party, that there are a few who might not be equipped to handle that bug as well as your darling did.  That amongst those kids are a handful who have weakened, sensitive systems and who will not sail smoothly through the ‘little bug’ that you knowingly passed on.

I’m a mom, I know how difficult it is to keep a sick child indoors, away from public spaces and other children, it is hard, sometimes downright impossible. But you know what you do in the event of having to go into public?  You ensure that you carry sanitiser with you, you ensure that whatever you or your child has touched is wiped down for the sake of the next person who touches it, you disclose your childs health status in the event of anyone wanting physical contact with them.  We had to do just this right after our visit to the paed where we were told she had Roseola, we had to buy Charlottes special formula from the only store in PE that had stock left of it (thanks again for that Nestle rep), I made sure to strap that child to my chest so that she could touch nothing and nobody. Anyone who wanted to touch or interact was told she was ill and contagious by touch, I damn near felt like a leper towards the end of our shopping but you know what, I made sure to make the best out of a bad situation and ensured that we did not spread the virus.

Please moms, the next time your precious is ill, think a little further than your own nose and realise that there are so many children out there who do not have rockstar immune systems like your child does, do the right thing, stay home or disclose their health status immediately and give the rest of us a chance to decide if we want to expose our children or not.



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