I am not a rampant Googler of health information. I do not look at blogs and websites and try and self diagnose myself or my family. I trust professionals and official sources on the whole. That doesn’t mean I don’t question them, but let’s be honest if you Google half a dozen symptoms you’ll find half the time you have a tropical disease – you don’t, you have a cold.
I believe in the brilliance of the NHS Direct website and an occasional trip to the doctor if I’m very concerned. That’s not to say that there isn’t something to be gained from chatting things through with other people, friends with kids the same age or your nursery assistant – after all, they are with other kids all the time and seen more childhood illnesses than you’ve had got dinners – but I am mindful that often the stuff you’ll find on the internet can get you into a panic.
Now, a vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend and I’m aware of the irony of this. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, but listen to me! Actually, I don’t mean that, you shouldn’t listen to me. What I’m going to say instead, is listen to your gut – LISTEN TO YOU!
Our Small Boy is fiercely independent and always on the go. So if he is feeling a bit low, or always wants to be cuddled, I know something is definitely wrong. Something beyond a common cold. In the past month or so we’ve had ear infections, a vomiting bug, scarlet fever and croup. If you follow me on Twitter you will have followed my tribulations.
The first bad thing was Scarlet Fever. Small boy got a rash that looked like chicken pox. We saw the emergency nurse who was insistent it was a reaction to the penicillin he had just finished for an ear infection. I wasn’t convinced. I suggested it was Scarlet Fever as there had been one confirmed case in nursery. No, he didn’t fit all the criteria I was told. I knew this was true as I’d looked them on the NHS direct site, but I also know from experience that illnesses can’t simply be diagnosed by saying you have ALL of these – disease doesn’t work like a checklist. Within 24 hours, his condition had deteriorated. He was covered in a rash, his face was swollen, he was hot and screaming. We went to hospital where we have an out of ours service. I explained over the phone before we got there that I was convinced this wasn’t an allergy and we wanted to be seen urgently. It took us five minutes with the doctor at the hospital for Scarlet Fever to be diagnosed. Another week of antibiotics and he eventually got better. The message, it doesn’t always present as you think.
Less than two weeks later, a similar incident occurred. Small boy started coughing and lost his voice. He seemed fine apart from this, but after two days, he was starting to be wheezy. More than a cold I thought, and so did his nursery. We went to our GP, asking if it were croup or an infection. He’s fine I was told. He has a mild cold. Fluids and calpol. He’s fine to go back to nursery. Two days later, I was on the phone to the out of hours doctor – his temperature had dropped to 34, he wouldn’t lie down as it was clearly painful, he was wheezy and very upset. Still the same cough. Again we went to the emergency GP at our local hospital. We ended up seeing the doctor we saw the previous week. Croup! “People think it’s going to present a certain way, but it doesn’t always.” She was fabulous. While I obviously didn’t want Small Boy to be ill I did feel a little vindicated that I wasn’t making it up or overreacting and we could actually get some treatment – a shot of steroids and some practical advice.
So what’s my take-away with this. First, doctors and nurses see your child for snapshot of time. They won’t see everything and we have to expect that sometimes they might miss something – or a child that presents okay one day, will improve or get worse the next. Let’s accept that, I’m not going to slate the NHS because it’s bloody well brilliant. Secondly, you know your child better than anyone. If your gut tells you something is wrong, check it out. Thirdly, go to http://www.NHS.uk and check out some facts if you think it’s something specific. Finally, make sure you have the details of your local out of hours doctor and late night pharmacy to hand. If you’re not sure, ask your GP for a list, or at a push telephone them out of hours and listen to their recorded message – very often it’s on there or they’ll divert you.