• J Mess

THE BIG SICK

I’ve never talked about diarrhea so much in polite company.


Just when you thought it was safe to go back to school, I got another one of the dreaded emails from daycare. Someone in my son’s class has rotavirus. Dum, dum, dum. Cue the scary music. My mom is trying her hardest not to convey how much she freaked out when I told her, only responding with “it’s contagious.” Yup, sure is.


I’ll admit my first thought was so, so wrong… WHO IS IT (angry face)?! I mean, obviously I hope the child is okay. It’s just so much sickness so quickly. These kids are dropping like flies and it’s only month 2. How is it possible that in a class of only 5 babies, everybody’s got something all the time? They’re like little patient zero petri dishes. At least we only had an ear infection, a malady that is not contagious. Rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhea potentially leading to dehydration and hospitalization in infants, is very, very contagious. In case you didn’t know. I know because this is what I do.


I know all there is to know about infant diarrhea and the vaccines that can help prevent it.

I worked on RotaTeq, the rotavirus vaccine, briefly in between my stints on the cervical cancer vaccine and the shingles vaccine. So diarrhea really didn’t phase me much coming off of discussing genital warts in a professional environment for 5 plus years. My son received 2 of the 3 doses of the rotavirus vaccine, with the 3rd scheduled at 6 months, so I’m hoping he had enough immunity to stave off this unexpected diarrhea assault. He loved it, which is not a phrase you hear often when describing a child’s reaction to a vaccination. But this one is orally administered and apparently tastes sweet, so of course my child couldn’t get enough and the nurse commented that she’d never seen a kid gobble it down like that as she wrestled the empty syringe from his mouth.



This random knowledge seems to come in handy and as much as the internet can be a scary place to look for information, I’d rather be informed so I can properly advocate for my child. I needed to know that being on antibiotics (say, for an ear infection) kills all

the bacteria in the body bad and good and can cause intestinal discomfort ie, diarrhea,

so I could ask the pediatrician if my son should be taking a probiotic to replace the good bacteria and so if he had diarrhea I wouldn’t immediately think he had caught the dreaded rotavirus. I needed to know that shingles is

a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, and is not contagious to anyone who’s already had chickenpox, so that when my brother texted

me asking if he could still come over since

his boss had shingles, I could say “yup

you’re fine, don’t worry… but still maybe, don’t tell mom…”

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