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  • Susie Csorsz Brown

Iron clad

I often think that one if the qualifications for bring a parent should be having a strong stomach. I can’t even count the number of times some sort of body fluid has ended up on some part of my person, ranging from benign (I’d say urine, but everyone has their own preferences/opinions) to the most foul (trust me, you don't want to know). You don’t really get to pick what you are to be dowsed with nor the regularity; suffice it to say, it’ll happen. Take a deep breath, deal with it and then clean it up and move on.

Beyond body fluids, though, I find the various parasites and such to be at the same time fascinating and disgusting. Worms, bacteria, amoeba, viruses... I think we’ve experienced them all. My eldest used to find great joy in detailing for me the latest thing he took out of his arm/thigh/etc. He spent a lot of time on the beach and a surfboard so ... these things happen. Mango flies, worms, jelly fish stings, ... I think digging the sea urchin spines out of his foot was probably the ultimate mother-son bonding experience. I know that's not technically a parasite, but ... it still is something foreign in his person so ... it fulfills some of the requirments.

Honestly, for me, the worst things are those that are not treatable. Give me a name, give me a specific cause or reason for the illness/infection, and what I can do about it, as well as how to prevent it in the future ... I’m good. I don't do well with the unknown. I want to know WHY my kid has horrible diarrhea/fever/aching belly. I want to know WHAT I can do about it. I want to know how I can get said child past it. And I want to know how to not let it happen again.

I’m not going to let my family live in a bubble; we are going to experience life. Sure, white water rafting on the Nile is going to open us to the possibility of bilharzia... it’s a calculated risk. Playing on the sand-covered playground might bring about hookworms. Leaving your towel on the beach while swimming is an invitation to mango flies (and thievery, but that's a totally different topic and blog post). Surfing in the ocean means possible jelly fish stings. Eating a salad might end up in ... who knows what. But honestly, the same thing could happen to you in any location - first world and otherwise -- and not just in these places we live and visit. What's a mom to do? Well, since putting my family into boy-sized bubbles isn't an option, I'll tell you what we do: we treat for what we can, we prevent what we can, and then we deal with the rest.

First, trust me on this one: do NOT google 'parasites'. Do not. Save yourself the visual trauma. Possibly one of the most gruesome internet searches I have ever made was when my youngest has a worm in his finger. I can't unsee what I saw in those pictures online. Even if you think you know what it is, just go to a medical provider and they will take care of you. Do NOT google it.

Yes, we deworm. A couple times a year, we do a couple doses of deworming meds, two weeks apart, because we do like to eat out, and we do like to eat salads and you just never know. This is, incidentally, the same meds that are used to treat a parasitic worm infection; depending on the worm, they'll calculate the dosage. When my youngest had his migran (mentioned above, a variant of hookworm that can't penetrate the lowest level of skin; pretty benign as far as worms go because it is a very obvious - read: easy to find; there will not be any doubt in your mind that your child has a parasite when you see the curvy worm shape under his skin - parasite that is easy to treat), we used the same meds, just more frequent dosing. And, luck for us, it tastes like a creamsicle! (I know. But better than that horrible fake grape flavor).

Yes, we walk around barefoot. I know, I know. We just aren't fans of shoes. Honestly, other than my running shoes, I can't remember the last time I bought closed-toe shoes. Bare feet rock! (Reason #373 why we can't move to a country that has cold seasons.) Hookworms can happen (how's that for a bumper sticker?), and when they do, just deal with it properly. If you want to be preventative, then by all means, where shoes, especially when outside in wet, sandy areas or places that pets (especially cats) like to ... do their thing. Honestly, though, we garden, and we stay outside a lot. The weather here is completely perfect so how could we not? We run around playing yard games, grill often, eat dinner outside almost every night, and we take part in mud runs. While I am not WANTING a hookworm, I am also not going to live in a bubble.

Yes, we take prophylactics for ailments like malaria. I didn't before here, honestly. Even the med that is supposed to be 'side effect free' wasn't for me, but ... here the mossies are EVERYWHERE but the weather is also so completely amazing (as mentioned above) we feel compelled to be outside. And there is only so much bug repellent one can spray. So, we take the meds. Is it better? Some say it's better to not take it so then if you get malaria, you have more options for treatment. Some say it's not all that bad anyway; the meds are worse for you than the disease. Some say it's the right decision, and shame on you if you don't take care of your kids. I say this decision works for us right now, and it's my business and I'll do what I think is best for my family. I also say it is a difficult decision to make -- it's hard to decide whether to give your kids fairly hard core meds regularly for extended periods of time or to let them possibly be infected by a disease that may be life-threatening -- and each parent has to make this decision for themselves. It's one that you should educate yourself about and do what works best for you.

Yes, we use sun block. I know, that isn't actually a parasite, but we pay the cost as adults for the damage we cause to our skin as youngsters. Oh, how i wish I had been more diligent when I was a kid, smearing on thick layers of sunscreen. Oh, how I wish I could be more patient and good about wearing hats. Oh, how I wish I liked wearing long sleeves more. But I don't. So ... now, I am paying the price. My kids, though, are going to smear up (sun screen) and slap on (hats) no matter what as long as they live with us, and as long as I can influence (guilt) them into it. Hopefully by the time they are off to university, they will have adopted these habits as automatic, and will keep doing so for ever and ever amen.

Yes, we vaccinate. I know, there are all sorts of debates and reasons and blah blah blah. It is better to vaccinate. Period. You can find alternative vaccine schedules if you want to space the jabs out a little bit, but please give your kids the best chance they can for not contracting diseases unnecessarily. We live in places where diseases that are rarely found in stateside are rampant. Why would I not protect my kids from these life-threatening ailments? Again, this is the decision that works for us. I hated having to hold my kids for the bajillion jabs (okay, not really that many but it sure feels like it when you kid is red-faced screaming in your arms), but it's the kind of protection gifted to us by science.

Yes, we get minerals and nutrients. I feed my kids plenty of hydration and rainbow-hued fruits and veggies to keep their bodies running at 100% and foster a strong immune response. They eat a variety of fiber-rich foods to keep their digestion happy. Every day, they go to that petri dish (aka school) where they can and will play with kids carrying any number of bacteria/viruses. Again, no bubble, so they are going to be exposed to every little thing. And then they'll bring those infectious little germs home to us. Sadly, they are very very good at sharing germs.

Yes, we get our sleep. Sleep is your body's fix-it for pretty much everything. It's during sleep that we recover from the day that has passed and get ready for what is coming. It is during sleep that we do our growing and healing. It's during sleep that we recharge, both literally and proverbially. Kids need sleep. Even after your kid hits teenage years, and their body is telling them that they are now night owls, know that you know better: they very much NEED sleep. They need to turn off their screens, turn off their noises, and close their eyes. Even if they scowl, and swear and scream, you are in the right as their parent to make them turn it all off, and give their bodies regular and adequate time for shut-eye.

Sometimes, we avoid. There are some parasites that even I don't want to deal with. Crazy viruses, endemic diseases, ... if you can avoid it or the area it thrives in, maybe that's the best way to go about it. Certain pockets of the world are more prone to such outbreaks so ... we just won't get venturing there. There are plenty of other amazing places to visit so no problem.

One other thing we do regularly: regular exams and check-ups. Partly, it's just smart to know your numbers and where you stand health-wise. Partly, it's also important to know that some parasites/illnesses/ailments are silent; you don't know what you might have if you don't know what 'normal' is. Getting regular medical exams and preventative screenings is a good way to identify any issue, and to do so early, making treatment that much drama- and trauma-free. No one likes to get jabs or don the paper gown, but if that little bit of discomfort can make a difference in your health, then that is a small price to pay. Am I right?

I mean, parasites are going to happen. It may be something big and horribly ugly or tiny and faceless, but ... it'll happen. It's good to prevent if you can, but it's also best to live and experience and enjoy. And deal with what may come along with the experience when it happens.

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