Does My Son Have the Swine Flu?
I understand the hysteria
-Julie Ryan Evans
There is a palpable smell to fever on my son’s skin, and I inhaled it the minute I walked into his room one night last week. I could feel the heat from his body before I ever put my hand to his skin, and I wasn’t a bit surprised to see the thermometer register around 103.
So out came the sticky assortment of Tylenol liquids and chewables, adding sweetness to his feverish scent. He had gone to bed with nary a sniffle in sight–just a little cough that morning that has disappeared with the daylight. But the fever was soon followed by vomiting, more coughing, lots of sneezing and a runny nose. You know, all the symptoms of the SWINE FLU.
While I have some pretty strong hypochondriac tendencies, I actually do everything in my power to avoid unnecessary doctor visits (too many germs, and I fear they will think I’m crazy if I went as often as I really wanted to get my children checked out). I usually take a let’s-wait-a-day-and-see-what-happens kind of approach.
But with the swine flu echoing in my head and everywhere I looked, I drove to the pediatrician’s office that morning. The doctor asked Nolan a few questions, looked in his ears, throat, and all the usual places. He diagnosed “mild pneumonia” and dismissed my fears about the Swine Flu with a comforting confidence and three prescriptions. Who would have thought that word pneumonia would be a relief?!
So after a quick stop at the store to fill said prescriptions and pick up popsicles and ginger ale, we headed home for a day spent on the couch napping and watching movies. But all day the news in Twitterland, on Facebook and blaring from the occasional newscast I caught in another room, kept coming with more reports of Swine Flu. Swine Flu here, Swine Flu there, Swine Flu everywhere–all listing the symptoms that my sweet son on the couch had.
After he was in bed for the night, I read a tweet that swine flu had hit Orlando, which really started me panicking. I called our pediatrician’s office, and after agreeing to pay a $20 fee to talk to the on-call physician (outrageous, no?!), a very nice doctor talked me down off the ledge … sort of–at least out of waking Nolan up in the middle of the night to go get swabbed.
She assured me during our 20-minute conversation that the reason Swine Flu had likely been ruled out was because they had heard congestion in his lungs that would explain the other symptoms, so a flu test wasn’t really necessary. But he could have BOTH, couldn’t he –pneumonia AND swine flu? Well, he could, but he’s never been to Mexico, and the chances …
I hung up and went and crawled into his small, single bed with him.
For several days he didn’t get better; in fact, he got a little worse–as did the hysteria worldwide about the Swine Flu. He had more vomiting, a fever that wasn’t really going down much with Tylenol, and a furious fatigue. Interestingly enough, he almost never coughed at all, which I thought was a big sign of pneumonia, and its absence did nothing to quell my Swine Flu worries.
I had moments of panic in which I was convinced he had Swine Flu and that we’d missed the 48-hour window in which you’re supposed to take Tamiflu. I struggled to keep him away from his 3-month-old sister, who he adores, as I struggled to keep my emotions in check, especially when I described his syptoms to others and their first reaction was, What about the Swine Flu?
But just when I was ready to take him back to the doctor and demand a test for the Swine Flu, he started getting better, and though still tiring easily, he’s definitely majorly improved today. I’m still not convinced he had pneumonia, but I also doubt he had Swine Flu. I feel silly for getting caught up in the hysteria, but all of those images of masks and news reports of schools closing down are scary when you think about your children and their beautiful, fragile lives. I understand why people are panicking, and I give myself a little bit of a break for doing so too.
When you dig deeper beyond the headlines, the facts just aren’t as scary as they appear–at least about Swine Flu. I’ve read reports that claim the last time the Swine Flu broke out in 1976 they developed a vaccine for it–only one person died from the flu, but hundreds died and were injured by the vaccine. What is scary though, is that swine flu or not, there are so many things out there that can harm our children. Thousands of other children’s lives are lost to cancer and car accidents and other atrocities each day that never make headlines but make terrible, horrible imprints in people’s lives.
We can only do so much, worry so much and wash our hands so much. While we need to remain vigilant in their health care, we can’t protect children from everything, Swine Flu included. And worrying about it all is more harmful than helpful. I know this–we all know this–it’s just absorbing and acting upon it that’s the real challenge of parenthood.