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Itchin’ To Write This One

Common.  Usually mild.  Typically requires no special medical treatment.  All this was lost on me, for as a mother, I dreaded chicken pox more than weaning, more than potty training, more than the bedtime routine gone bad because some little fella has decided that bedtimes are overrated, and he’s opting out of the night-night nonsense. 

I’m no good with bumps, red and blistery or otherwise.  I get the itchies when I see protuberances on noni, lychee and particularly craggy squash.  When I noticed three suspicious varicella-zoster virus spots rearing their ugly little heads on my son’s groin as I changed his nappy/diaper, I felt the urge to scratch my forearm, and then my wrist became a bit itchy, and then my left heel started itching, and then my ants in pants dance commenced. 

In denial, I decided that it was nappy/diaper rash.  Or possibly a sudden allergy to our washing soap/laundry detergent.  Best to give him a bath, google a good cognitive behavioural therapist who could help me control my impulse to scratch the non-existent bumps on my own body, and get some sleep. 

But I had difficulty sleeping.  I woke up every couple hours to check whether any new bumps had surfaced on my wee prince.  I didn’t find any until my son woke up, complaining that his back and belly felt “scratchy”.  I lifted up his shirt and was astonished how three bumps could turn into about 100 in a matter of hours.  

I called my son’s doctor as soon as I knew she was in and asked if we could come in for the ol’ verification of chicken pox.  A few hours later, and Dr. Make Sure made sure.  She prescribed some calamine lotion and said I might consider giving my lumpy lad some ibuprofen, acetaminophen and/or Piriton for children and bathing him with Aveeno body wash with colloidal oatmeal. 

Unfortunately, neither the calamine lotion, nor the Piriton or Aveeno baths were effective in eliminating any discomfort.  I sought other remedies and was fortunate that both recommendations proved successful.  A friend suggested “pouring a bunch of bicarbonate soda” (baking soda) into warm bath water and letting the little guy soak in it for as long as he wants.”  I was giving him four or five baths a day.  And my husband read that a particular homeopathic remedy, rhus tox, seemed to work for several situations of the swellies.  He picked up some of the stuff, which is apparently extracted from poison ivy. 

I asked my husband, “So, you want to seriously harm our son and put me into itchy overdrive?  He already has chicken pox and now you want to give him poison ivy, too?”  He responded by explaining how these things work – inject chicken pox to prevent chicken pox.  Chew a rhus tox (aka poison ivy) pill and prevent the itching and restlessness poison ivy presents.  I understand it all, but for whatever reason still find it difficult to grasp that the chickenpox vaccine, which contains a weakened form of the chickenpox virus itself, works by causing the body to reproduce its own antibodies to protect against the disease. 

Rhus tox worked though.  I told my son they were “magic chocolate pills” that erased chicken pox, and he went for it.  He was asking for the pills like Ashley Cole asks for his nude photos or Charlie Sheen asks for his “goddesses”.  

I also made sure to trim my son’s nails as I knew he would be tempted to scratch.  I trimmed my own nails while I was at it and decided an antihistamine for mama would be a good idea considering her own skin tickles. 

Unlike some parents I know who buckle under the quarantine pressure and let their munchkins roam freely, with the possibility of infecting all the other children who come in contact with The Itty Bitty Infector, I was Queen of the Quarantiners.  Luckily, we lived in a large apartment complex at the time, and while we stayed inside all day – admittedly driving each other crazy with respective cases of cabin fever – in the evenings we turned into nocturnal creatures lurking in the dark and running up and down the long hallways.  And on the two occasions when someone appeared in the hallway, my son became Blanket Jackson’s twin.  I held his blankie over his head and ushered him to the nearest exit. 

I had to inform our friends that they may have been at risk of being infected, and one mom asked if I would be having a chicken pox party, and if so, could she please RSVP.   She was among the parents who believe that purposely exposing their youngsters to the virus allows the kiddos to acquire some immunity to the disease in a safer and more effective manner than using vaccines.  No pox parties, no measles merrymaking, or flu flings coming from this camp.  I couldn’t bear the thought of knowing I was responsible for inflicting any sort of pain or discomfort – not to mention physical and possibly emotional scars – on a child. 

One dad who didn’t know whether he ever had chicken pox called his mom to find out, and she said she couldn’t remember.  Not remember?  What in the name of all that is holy?  I told him I felt it was particularly important for him to steer clear of us as according to the Mayo Clinic, chicken pox can affect male fertility.  A high fever associated with the pox can temporarily decrease sperm production.  And, the virus is also capable of causing inflammation of the testicles, which can result in testicular shrinkage and infertility.  This is more common with mumps but still occurs occasionally with chicken pox.  Bulging balls and no more babies is serious business, I told him, so he needed to dodge the chicken pox bullet. 

I have one mom friend who contracted chicken pox and then two weeks later, her son woke up with the irritating knobs.  And another mom whose poor older son has had chicken pox twice.  As we walked together, she told me she was on her way to get her younger son the pox vaccination. 

I’m grateful that my little fella had chicken pox a couple years ago and remained relatively unscathed.  He didn’t really have a fever, abdominal pain, sore throat, or headache – common symptoms that appear alongside these bothersome bumps.  And he didn’t develop any bacterial infections or other complications.  Phew.  

I’m not sure I could handle a case of the horrible humps again.  Even writing this and thinking about the bumps on my son’s eyelids, his scalp, behind his ears, and in the folds of his bum cheeks gives me a bad case of the itchies.  He has two barely detectable scars, and I’ve tried to explain to him that these scars represent a rite of passage.  He asked, “You mean like the grazes on my hands and knees are a secret passageway?”  I respond, scratching my head, “Um, ya, that’s precisely what I mean.”

Category: Baby and Toddler Accoutrement, General, This Parenting Stuff

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