Of sore throats and obscure-sounding diseases

With two kids in it, it’s no surprise that this house has been a bit of a germ factory for the past few months.

The big surprise has been how infrequently my husband and I have been sick. We’ve had a bunch of low-grade viruses, but nothing serious…until now.

Thanks almost certainly to Barak the disease vector, I’ve got strep throat. One night of fever, chills, and vomiting convinced me that perhaps my sore throat was strep rather than a cold. Well, that and the fact that Barak has had scarlet fever twice.

Scarlet fever? I hear you cry. (Well, I really don’t, but I’ve got a good imagination.) Mara, what does scarlet fever have to do with strep throat?

Some of you probably know the answer to that question, but I didn’t until a few months ago, when Barak developed a mild fever and a very startling and fast-moving rash. “He’s got scarlet fever,” the doctor said. “Some kids get that when they’ve got strep throat.”

“How was I supposed to know he had scarlet fever?” I cried later to my husband. “He barely had a fever!”

Scarlet fever is one of those diseases that sounds like it died out a century ago, doesn’t it? That and croup (which my darling son has had four or five times). When you hear the name “scarlet fever” you probably think of something deadly and dangerous and if something like that were still prevalent, you’d know, right?

Scarlet fever used to kill. It wasn’t the most deadly disease out there, but it was nasty and dangerous and over the years it debilitated and killed a heck of a lot of people, a large proportion of them kids. (I love the Internet: Check out A Contribution to the Natural History of Scarlatina Derived from Observations on the London Epidemic of 1887-1888. As someone who’s got this bacteria in her body right now, can I say…ewwww?)

So what changed between then and now? How did scarlet fever/scarlatina/strep throat go from something that had doctoral dissertations written about its epidemics to a disease that my son didn’t even notice he had and was treated with $15 of antibiotics?

I would guess that the main answer is those antibiotics. Now, a lot of people who get strep throat and some kids with scarlet fever don’t go to the doctor and get medicine but the people in the most pain (the ones who were most likely to die in an 1887 epidemic) go to the doctor. And with antibiotics and some over-the-counter painkillers…pfft, this is nothing. Yesterday I was in pain all over my body and today I’ve just got a sore throat.

And boom, suddenly a killer is reduced to an annoyance. “Darn it, I wanted to go to sushi with Peter and Stacy today, but I’m still tired and contagious. I guess I’ll stay home and catch up on Leverage episodes instead.” (Any resemblance to my day is completely not coincidental. How ’bout that season 3 finale?)

Antibiotics aren’t perfect and they do have side effects, but I like that death is pretty much not one of them.

I’d love to hear of any other diseases you or a friend or family member have gotten that you thought didn’t exist anymore. Around here, we figure that if Barak has had croup and scarlet fever, he should get consumption next. (Note for the humor-impaired: No, I really don’t want my son to get tuberculosis.)

Later, folks. I’ve got a date with a bottle of Augmentin.


About mamamara

I'm a 40-something, work-at-home mother of two. I'm pro-vaccine, pro-medicine, pro-science, and an avid reader of information about all of the above, and I want to combine my love for my children with my love for science. So here we are!
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4 Responses to Of sore throats and obscure-sounding diseases

  1. Yena says:

    I had whooping cough when I was bitty. Of course, now there’s an epidemic of that crap going around.

    I also tended to blend scarlet fever with my yearly case of strep throat — sometimes twice-yearly.

    • mamamara says:

      I was the kid who got every case of gastroenteritis that went around and could get an ear infection just by standing near someone who was sick, but I wasn’t particularly prone to strep. This might be my first case! Certainly the first that was anywhere near this bad.

  2. FEE says:

    I can’t believe you’ve never had strep before. When I was in college, we passed it around to each other all the time. Every couple of weeks, it seemed like somebody we either knew or took a class with had strep. And even if you had it before, it would come back to you. We could not get it to go away.

    • mamamara says:

      ::shakes head:: I dunno. I’ve had plenty of sore throats before, but never combined with the other symptoms. Maybe I’ve had it, but not badly enough to warrant going to a doctor. Or maybe I’m just getting wimpier in my old age 😉

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