A week before Christmas, I took Gracie to the ER because she had a 105.4 degree fever. The ER doc did blood work and tested Gracie’s urine but didn’t find a source for the fever. Then, a few days later, when Gracie was supposed to get one of her delayed vaccinations, she developed a mysterious rash on her face, causing us to postpone the vaccination. We were at Jackson’s well-child visit at the time, and the doctor glanced at Gracie and suggested that I try hydrocortisone for the rash.

It took me a while to get the hydrocortisone – I looked all over our house but we didn’t have any, and in the days right before Christmas I was avoiding all stores. Eventually, though, I got the ointment and started applying it to Gracie’s rash twice a day, along with Aquaphor. The rash mostly went away, except in her right nostril, where she still had some rashy spots and also had what looked like a big bloody booger but was actually a big bloody scab.

Gracie was unwell the entire time she was on Christmas break, but there was nothing specific to point to a certain illness. She wasn’t sleeping well, though, which is one of the big signs that something’s wrong, and she wasn’t eating all that well either. Jackson was sick on Christmas day, too; he lay around most of the day and twice I found him napping in his bed, which NEVER happens. He seemed better the next day, though.

The day before New Year’s Eve, I started to feel sick. I had the sorest throat I’ve had since my tonsils were removed almost 20 years ago, and the lymph gland in the right side of my neck was painfully swollen. The next day, the sore throat was somewhat better – more like the typical post-nasal drip sore throat – but my sinuses were full of goop and I felt icky. Plus, every time I tried to sleep, I would cough uncontrollably – the sinus goop was running down my throat and tickling it mercilessly. I didn’t do much that weekend. Jackson started getting a little cough, too, especially while he slept. Gracie was still not quite well.

On the following Monday, I emailed Gracie’s doctor about the rash under her nose. Dr. A. responded that it sounded like strep impetigo and I should bring her in for a rapid strep test. I made the appointment for Tuesday morning, not for an examination but just a nurse appointment for the strep screen. When I brought her in, I told the nurse I wasn’t sure if she was supposed to swab Gracie’s throat or the scab. She told me, with exasperation in her eyes, that Gracie needed to be seen. She called the doctor (the one we’d seen at Jackson’s well child visit, Dr. A.’s PA), who said that the rash was impetigo but Gracie’s throat needed to be swabbed too to check for strep throat.

Sure enough, the swab was positive. All of a sudden we had an explanation for the rash, the not sleeping, and even the high fever. Gracie had had strep for probably three weeks by that point. Chalk another one up to not feeling pain – anyone else would have said that their throat hurt, but not Gracie. She just didn’t feel right, but couldn’t pinpoint why. Poor kid. Time for another course of antibiotics… so much for keeping her off them.

Because Jackson had a cough, I brought him in later that day. His swab was positive, too. He also had conjunctivitis, which had started the night before. I made an appointment with my own doctor for a strep test the following day and Chad went to his, too.

Chad’s strep test was positive too, even though he was probably the least sick of all of us (he just had sort of a scratchy throat, nothing major). But mine was negative. I am by far the sickest; I have a massive sinus infection, I feel like my ear is full of pressure, I have a huge swollen gland on my neck, and every time I lay down I cough uncontrollably. But I don’t have strep.

It’s been almost a week now since the kids started their antibiotics. Jackson seems totally better; his eye is not red anymore and I haven’t heard him cough for days. It’s hard to tell with Gracie. The scab on her nose looks like it might be peeling up at the edges, and the rashy spots on her face have faded, and she’s sleeping better, so probably the antibiotics are helping her, too. Chad seems to be getting a mild version of my viral sinus infection; he has been coughing at night, but nothing like me. I am still very sick, annoyingly. I felt a little better yesterday during the day but was up all night coughing again. On Saturday my right eye started to look very red and started draining goo. Instead of going back to the doctor, I have been using some eye drops left over from the last time Jackson had conjunctivitis. Hopefully they will work.

I feel bad that Gracie was sick for so long. They didn’t do a strep test at the ER, which is why they didn’t find a source for the fever. She was sick long enough to infect our whole house, and she wasn’t able to tell me what was wrong. She definitely seemed off, but she didn’t seem all that sick, and if we went to the doctor every time she had a mysterious symptom we’d be there every other day. Not feeling pain really causes problems; we can’t just go by the normal sorts of signs for illness, and have to look at other things (like not sleeping well) that could have a million other explanations. We save doctor visits for the obvious stuff, and try to find causes at home for the less obvious things. But still, poor kid.

Cold and flu season is here. Hopefully we’ll get through this bout of illness and be better for the rest of the winter. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this is the only course of antibiotics Gracie needs this year. Let’s hope so, anyway.

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