Back to the doctor

Back to school, back to the doctor. I am certainly not accusing schools of being plague houses. I know they strictly comply with OHS regulations and do their best to keep bacteria at bay.

But where you get more than one child you get germs. We have more than one in-house child, therefore also have multiple cases of whatever is going around.

Sorry to say, it is a case of rampant foot and mouth infection.

Actually, I don’t know about foot but little hands are always going into little mouths — unless it is holding healthy food, in which case it goes in the dog’s mouth or back in the lunchbox.

In no time, little germs are happily inhabiting this nice little mouth that is now being used to whine, moan and complain. And no wonder. Closer inspection (and good luck with that) eventually reveals nasty little ulcers.

The only thing more difficult than getting a splinter out of a child’s foot is getting it to open its mouth so you can see what it is they are crying about.

If there are enough home hospital aides around, you can hold down a child and get its foot in a wrestling grip long enough to at least see the splinter/gaping wound/broken leg or what it is they claim is imminently sending them to hospital.

They actually prefer to go to hospital rather than get frontline first aid at home.

That is because we are not the sort of people who tell their children that unless they let kind mummy or daddy put on the plaster, the doctor will have to give them an injection with the big sized needle and sew them up with black string.

This is only partly true, and in any case children’s doctors must have a hard enough job without us adding to their bad rep.

It’s like telling children that the police will come and get them if they misbehave, when we know that only happens after they are teenagers. We have tried giving the children a play medical kit so they can take our temperatures with the pink plastic thermometer and listen to our hearts with the white plastic stethoscope.

The real patient invariably ends up jabbing the pretend patient somewhere uncomfortable until you persuade him that the doctor never, ever takes your temperature in your ear with a plastic thermometer.

Unlike real stethoscopes, which look serious but are quite benign as medical equipment and treatment go, the plastic sort is capable of quite nasty things. It is something else that gets jabbed in ears, usually the caring parent’s, to explain that it doesn’t work properly. But this week it got caught in the real patient’s curls. At least it got his mouth open while he bellowed and screamed.

I was going to explain to the parents how you could get dogs to open their mouths by holding their noses closed, but thought the better of it. Children too have teeth.

I try to keep the first aid box filled with child-friendly medications — things that don’t taste bad or sting when you put them on, syringes that can be filled with water and keep children occupied injecting a dolly or a dog while you get the real stuff ready to pop down their throats, and lots and lots of plasters.

We have plain plasters, skin matching plasters, neon coloured plasters, plasters with cartoons, plasters with superheroes, and plasters in all shapes and sizes.

I’ve got a lot of little tiny ones for the little tiny cuts that children claim is right there, on the finger, only you can’t see it. There are lots of big ones that will cover a whole gory mess and round ones for sinister spots that you probably shouldn’t be seen with outside the house.

I don’t know why, but children seem to most often come down with some sort of complaint or infection that you really prefer other people didn’t know about. Just in case they tell the welfare or someone from the health ministry comes around with orange tape to quarantine the compound.

In any case, it is unseemly for a grandmother to be seen at the pharmacy buying kutu medicine or parasite pills. Even if she says it’s for the dogs.

Fortunately the germs and complaints the children come home with are mostly common and curable. But I sure miss the diagnostic expertise, wisdom and most of all, the knowledge of herbal and folk remedies of our late aaji.

However, I have a little group of friends who may be described as older women, if you don’t stand too close because they are also fit and feisty. Between us all we have a fair knowledge of what good healing stuff grows in our gardens.

It’s a knowledge that we shouldn’t lose, not least because it is smarter to use what is freely available and save our money for when we really do need medical treatment — and to know the difference.

* The writer is a regular contributor to this column. Views expressed are hers and not of this newspaper.

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