Monday, April 12, 2010

The Fungus Among Us

It was not long after we had just finished a course of eye drops and oral antibiotics to address Sophie’s eye infection that I noticed the red spot, just above the line of her diaper. I chalked it up to chafing, and ignored it, assuming it would go away.

That was a mistake.

A week or two later the spot had grown to a large reddish circle with a ring around it. I had seen this circle before, on Kevin. Back when we lived in North Carolina.

Ring worm.

Ring worm is one of those childhood diseases that has a major ick-factor. First of all, you get it from playing in the dirt. I immediately flashed back to the two of us playing in the sandbox. It was just after a rainstorm, on an unseasonably warm day. The sand was wet and cool. Sophia had laid belly-down in it and thrust her arms deep into the pile, luxuriating in the sensation. I had turned away for a moment, and when I turned back her face was heavily freckled with grains, and sand was drooling from her mouth. “Oh Sophie! Don’t EAT it!” I told her. I pulled her from the box, rinsed her mouth out, wiped her down, and sternly reminded her not to eat the sand. But five minutes later I was pulling her from the box again, this time for good, her lips coated.

And then flashing back even further, about a year ago. Sophie was at another playground poking in the sandbox with a stick. Another mother said to me, “I never let my child play in sandboxes anymore. Cats. It’s like one big litter box to them.”

And yeah, maybe that’s true. But there are germs all around us. I’m not one to squirt anti-bacterial goo into Sophia’s hand every time she touches something. I think it’s important to be exposed to germs and build up one’s natural immunity. Okay, maybe not the germs in cat poo, but I’ve never actually SEEN cat poo in the sand box. I wouldn’t let her play in it if I did. I do have my limits.

So, hat in my hand, I called the pediatrician who prescribed an anti-fungal cream. Contrary to what the name might imply, ringworm is a fungus not a worm (which, in my opinion, is the only thing grosser than a fungus). We dubbed it the “tickle cream,” because every time I tried to apply it to the spot on Sophia’s stomach she wriggled and laughed hysterically. Better than screaming and crying, perhaps, but equally difficult to manage. For two weeks, Sophia and I suffered through the twice daily application, when I noticed another spot, this time south of the diaper line.

I felt awful. Like somehow I was failing Sophia. And a bit ashamed of her having contracted what I consider to be a dirty disease. And then, despite my diligence, another one appeared, this time on her chest. I called the advice nurse, and she told me to bring Sophia in. Apparently it can get worse…enter the hair follicles, create bald patches. And then you need a particularly invasive course of anti-fungal medication, with routine liver testing to make sure it’s not building up toxicity in the system. Sounds like just the kind of thing I want to give to my organically-fed baby. Then the pediatrician pointed out two other lesions that I hadn’t noticed. My heart sank. She prescribed Diflucan…an oral anti-yeast/anti-fungal. “Maybe a double hit will knock it out. This is so gentle, they give it to infants when they have thrush,” she assured me. But it was little comfort, knowing that in addition to the fact that the ringworm was continuing to spread, I was going to have to force yet another medication on Sophie.

I know I should be grateful that it’s just ringworm. She’s not chronically ill. She doesn’t need invasive procedures, and terrifying treatments. This WILL go away. But you never want to watch your child go through any amount of suffering. When I was sick, my mother used to quote my grandmother saying, “I wish I could take away your pain. That it was me, not you, going through this.”

I get that now.

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