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How the ($*&#) did my kid manage to get strep throat during quarantine??!!

Sara Dumond May 14, 2020

How in the __ did my kid manage to get sick during quarantine?! 🤪

This is a question that started coming up a few weeks ago. You’ve all been home. Your kids are ready to drive you insane, but you’re making peace with things like unrelenting messes and unlimited screentime and cereal for dinner and hiding in your closet for two minutes of “alone” time, and you’ve PUT UP WITH ALL OF THIS CRAP because if it’s in the name of keeping our kids healthy? Sure, we can do it. So you do it. You don’t like it, and it almost steals every last fiber of mental stability from you, but you do it. And then? Your kid gets an ear infection. Or strep throat. In the middle of quarantine. 🤦🏼‍♀️ Like…really??? It’s like starting a low-carb diet and running program 5 days a week, and then finding out after 4 weeks that you actually GAINED weight. #amirite?

So, I thought it might be helpful to go over a few things we know about “regular” childhood illnesses – how they are spread, how contagious they are, and why you shouldn’t just give up altogether if your kid gets a “regular” illness during quarantine! So here you go. I hope it helps you feel a little less defeated and a little more empowered, like the superwomen that you are. That WE are.

1. “Ear infections, what’s up with them?” – Ear infections, in the traditional sense, refer to infections in the middle ear space, the space behind the ear drum. These kinds of ear infections don’t have anything to do with swimming or moisture in the outer ear. And they have everything to do with the fact that the middle ear space is tiny, and totally doesn’t drain well. Add to it, that if the one tiny little drainage route gets blocked (the Eustacian tube), by say, a little stuffiness from the pollen, then even the tiniest bit of fluid (from allergies or from that left-over fluid from the ear infection a couple of months ago) can’t drain out, and it becomes like a stagnant puddle. Just waiting to get infected. So as frustrating as it is, you haven’t done anything wrong if your kid has gotten an ear infection over the past month. Like someone’s wise mother used to say, “It is what it is.”

2. Strep throat – Ok, who’s been licking the light post on the nightly family walk?! (Were you tempted to fire off some accusations like this when your kid got strep during quarantine?!) Lemme talk you down for a minute, because it’s very possible that no one licked a nasty light post or picked up some disgusting wrapper off the sidewalk and decided to pop it in their mouth. (I mean, it’s possible that one of them did exactly that, but I’m just saying, it’s not the only explanation here!) Group A strep is the strain of strep that causes Strep throat, and it’s quite prevalent everywhere. In fact, many times it sets up camp and just lives right in our bodies. Or in our family member’s body. And then bam – a chip dipped in the same shared queso dip, an accidental sip out of the wrong Le Croix can, or eating the same homemade cookie skillet by shoving five spoons in at the same time at 10:30pm at night while watching Schitt’s Creek with your teenage kids (did I over-share?)…perfect scenario for one of those people to hit the deck with strep throat a few days later.

3. Stomach bug – What the actual freck. Yes, it’s possible to pick up a stomach bug, even in the absence of school and daycare Petri dishes, and even when the trampoline-parks-that-shall-remain-nameless are all closed. These lovely viruses are spread by fecal-oral transmission, (a fact that almost made me vomit in my mouth when I first heard the term “fecal-oral” in med school), and it means that if somebody hasn’t been entirely safe about quarantine, and they pick up a stomach bug germ from some skanky germy place, and then touch something that your kid later touches, followed by those same fingers touching their mouth? Well, it’s vomit and diarrhea city for a day or so. Not cool. But not a reason to think the universe is somehow transpiring against you, or that you’ve somehow failed.

4. Fever – Ok, not gonna lie. This one keeps us in business more than we’d like to admit. You know the illness – fever and then like, nothing else? The maddening “viral” infection. What’s up with getting one of these smack in the middle of quarantine? Could it be COVID? Maybe. We know the rate of COVID in kids isn’t terribly high. We are still learning more about this “PIMS-TS” syndrome, believed to be a post-viral condition that in some cases is associated with COVID. And yes, you should always at least call your pediatrician’s office if your child runs a fever for more than a couple of days so that they can help you sort out how worried to be about it, and if they need to be seen in person or by telemedicine visit. BUT, let’s say for argument’s sake, that for THIS discussion, we’re talking about your garden-variety fever-nothin-else kind of virus. How did my kid manage to get that when he’s been home for two months?? Well, the answer is similar to the answer about the stomach bug. Someone, somewhere, was sick with this virus, and then your kiddo, unbeknownst to you, grabbed that piece of chalk laying at the end of the driveway because he thought it was the one he left out there yesterday. Turns out, it was a piece of chalk that the kid down the street had in his little grubby hands this afternoon, and just as they were strolling past your driveway, he accidentally dropped it at the end of your driveway. Or actually, let’s make it a shoe. Way more accurate. (Can we all join together in wonder over how a kid manages to magically lose ONE shoe while riding quietly in a stroller?? But I digress…) Anyhow, the point is, dirty chalk, dirty shoe, the “thing” doesn’t really matter. It’s just the germ carrier. And since kids will always manage to only touch their face, noses, and mouths after they touch something that’s infected, then well…it’s the perfect scenario for these “fever only” viruses to get through the proverbial firewall.

So, when it comes to dealing with regular childhood illnesses during this time, I guess the message you should be hearing is this: Don’t despair, don’t feel like “only MY kid” would get this illness in the middle of quarantine, and don’t feel like you’ve in some way “failed”. Did you miss the finale of “This is Us?” Then you’ve failed. A little. But this kid sickness in the middle of quarantine stuff? It happens!