Thursday, January 13, 2011

Just to get it off my chest

Pneumonia is an effect, not a cause. It is the name for fluid in the lungs and can be caused by any number of bacteria, fungal infections, or viruses. You do not catch pneumonia; you catch whatever it is that gives you pneumonia. If your lungs are filling with fluid and you aren't inhaling it from outside your body, you have pneumonia. And a virus that gives one persona pneumonia might not affect other people the same way, so please stop saying your kid couldn't have made my kid sick because your kid had pneumonia and mine only had a cold. (And bronchitis with a wet cough is not walking pneumonia even though it makes you sound oh-so-brave to be dealing with it.)

The flu is a very specific virus strain. There is no such thing as a stomach flu and a really bad cold is not the flu. The flu will have you in bed with chills and feeling like you've been hit by a bus for a week. A sinus infection is not a mild flu. Diarrhea is not the flu. And there is no 24 hour flu. The flu can kill people; it's that serious. When people say "Oh I never get the flu shot anymore because one year I got it and then I had the flu like twice in one month," they are wrong. We seem to have this habit in the U.S. of calling every case of sniffles a cold and calling every bad cold the flu. The fact is, a bad cold will have you out of work for a few days and the flu will have you in bed for a few days. What most people call a cold is actually a sinus infection or some sort of upper respiratory bug. The reason the flu shot works is because it prevents the flu, the actual can-be-fatal-for-some-people flu. The reason the swine flu vaccine was doubly important was because it prevented swine flu, which was fatal for even healthy young people.

Being unable to run 2 miles without struggling for breath does not mean you have asthma. It means you are not a Terminator. Getting gassy when you eat eggs does not mean you are allergic to them. If eating an entire pineapple burns your tongue, you have a slightly heightened sensitivity to the acid in pineapple, an acid so strong it's used as a meat tenderizer, by the way. Food allergies, real food allergies, can kill people. Yes, it is possible to have mild allergies that cause discomfort or even affect moods, but cutting out gluten to be like Elizabeth Hasselbeck isn't even one of those. Why does this distinction matter? Because kids in lunch rooms are smearing peanut butter on allergic kids just to watch them freak out,not knowing that the freak-out could actually be death. I have what's called an upper G.I. sensitivity to certain drugs. If I take a certain antibiotic (not penicillin, oddly enough) at noon I will throw up at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, etc for up to 12 hours. If I get a certain painkiller in my I.V., I will throw up all over the hospital room. I am not, however, allergic to these drugs. Because they make me puke; they don't kill me with my own body. I don't know if the people who just have to have asthma or allergies or some other disease just need to be a victim and be applauded for how their life is somehow harder or if they're just such pussies that they equate gas pain with anaphylactic shock.

Babies spit up. Some babies spit up more than others. This does not mean that a baby who spits up after every feeding needs prescription medication for esophageal reflux. It might mean (more likely) that the baby needs to burp more. We all worry about our babies, but we don't all pump them with prescription meds in the first months for it. If the baby appears healthy and happy and is gaining weight, it could be something as simple as being so eager to eat that they eat too much and spit up because an infant's stomach does not stretch. If you put 2 ounces of food into a stomach the size of a marble, the stomach will over flow, no matter what reflux meds you put into it first.

Babies, especially breast fed babies, can go days without pooping. It is not constipation to go a couple days between poops, even for adults who are digesting all sorts of varied foods with all sorts of differing fiber contents. When a baby starts solid foods, they often undergo a period of adjustment where they won't poop for a few days. This is normal. Exclusively breast fed babies, even in the absence of any new foods, will sometimes go up to a week without a dirty diaper. This is caused by a growth spurt and a sudden need to absorb more of the milk than usual, which leaves less to be passed as waste. Since breast milk has NO extras in it (no preservatives or flavorings or anti-caking agents like chemical food, I mean formula) it can be entirely absorbed and used by the body. This can cause a mother to worry, since poop is one of the few things she can actually see and understand. Babies don't speak so we can't tell exactly what's going on with them, but we can count and examine dirty diapers (have a kid, you'll know what I mean). Not pooping for 3 days is no reason to shove a suppository up your babies butt. For one thing, it's never good to shove something up a butt, but sometimes the good outweighs the bad. There is risk, however minimal, of tearing or infection or of disturbing the delicate balance of gut flora in the intestines. These risks can be worth it when a baby is actually constipated (pooping hard pellets that cause pain, experiencing abdominal cramping due to a slowly passing blockage, etc), but not just to get you back to the business of examining poop. Stop anally violating your baby because you have chosen an arbitrary timeline for your kid's colon.

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