Wednesday, 23 March 2011

In which I am grateful for modern medicine

The Inexhaustible Baby has spent much of the winter in a state of copious mucus. I do apologise for my lack of delicacy but really, when one spends appreciable portions of every morning trying to clear his little countenance of the truly revolting bits left from the night and his nose of hideous blockages, one rather loses one's daintiness on the subject. It really has been very difficult for him, the poor mite has just gone from one horrid cold to another and he always struggles to get rid of them. One can hear his breathing and he develops a chesty cough each time.

What I find somewhat puzzling is that in spite of his being such a sturdy little ruffian, who eats as though there is an interval of days between each meal, he succumbs to every cold that comes along. This is in sharp distinction to his sister, who eats but poorly and looks so dainty and fragile that she might float away in a light breeze. She has the constitution of an ox and never seems to suffer from more than a mild cold. Certainly she has avoided the procession of phlegm that has afflicted her brother.

The Inexhaustible now seems to be recovering from his most recent bout and I am in hopes that the milder weather may give him some respite. I must confess though, that on this occasion, I was actually relieved that he had a cold - because the alternative was infinitely worse.

Some two weeks ago, my heart sank when on arrival at nursery, a new notice was to be seen on the front door advising parents that one of the children had contracted scarlet fever. The next day, the notice had been changed from one to three and the Inexhaustible seemed to be sickening with something. I was, I will admit, pessimistic. It seemed to me that with his tendency to absorb every form of bacteria within his orbit, his chances of escaping this were slim. On the day when he developed a temperature and sore throat, as well as displaying a most uncharacteristic lethargy, my misgivings were grave.

In retrospect, my reactions were probably somewhat extreme, because I remembered how many characters in novels that I have read have died of scarlet fever and similar illnesses. I couldn't help think with nervousness of Beth in Miss Alcott's Little Women who never really recovers her health and strength. Interestingly the grandmamma of one of the Infant Phenomenon's companions at ballet said that her own mamma was horrified at the mention of scarlet fever and earnestly advocated the incineration of all bedclothes, clothing and soft toys once the infection has reared its ugly head in any well-ordered nursery.

However, thanks indeed to modern medicine, this one-time killer has become a very treatable and relatively unimportant illness for the few who catch it. With that panacea for every childish fever, Calpol, to lower the temperature and antibiotics to kill the infection, the scarlet fever of our nightmares, does truly belong in the 19th century. And I, for one, am most content that it should so remain.

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