Adventures in Ethics and Science

Dispatch from the sickroom.

Owing to the fact that children are vectors of disease, three out of four members of the Free-Ride household have been feverish, achy, sneezy, sleepy, and grumpy for the past few days. (It’s not clear yet whether the progression of this bug will include other dwarves.)

Since I’m still kind of dopey, in lieu of a content-ful post, I’m offering some random musings from the sickbed.


Parental fever detection:
Before we go looking for the ear-thermometer, we check for fevers the old-fashioned way: kissing the forehead. If a forehead feels hot (or even warmer than usual) to our lips, then you can bet money that the ear-thermometer is going to display a fever-range temperature.

So … why does this work? I understand why hands on the forehead would be unreliable fever detectors, what with hands getting hot or getting cold depending on the circumstances. Do lips actually maintain a fairly constant temperature? Do there exist people whose lips are not reliable fever detectors, and if so, do they have other feasible low-tech ways to detect fevers?

(By the way, is our ear-thermometer the only one that registers a consistent temperature gradient between left ear and right? Should we expect north-facing ears to run a little colder than south-facing ears in this part of the world? Or is this gradient a clue to brain-hemispheric-dominance?)

Pushing fluids when everything tastes funny:
You’re supposed to drink a lot of fluids to flush the bug out of your system, yet the bug creates conditions (which may include a really sore throat or rivers of mucus flowing through your head) that make it hard to drink anything. Not even water tastes right.

Options that meet with some success at Casa Free-Ride:

  • Ice chips, especially for really sore throats (as the cold numbs the pain). You feel the ice more than you taste it, so it doesn’t taste funny.
  • Hot cranberry juice (or cran-apple, or cran-grape). The base flavor is strong enough not to be significantly distorted by the bug’s influence on the tastebuds, and the cranberry actually cuts through some of the mucus pretty effectively.
  • Hot Tang. Strong flavor, soothing vapors, and vitamin C. It’s what the astronauts would drink if they were under the weather.
  • Whiskey-free toddy. Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a big mug. Combine with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and boiling water to fill the mug. (If desired, add whiskey. But maybe not at 7 AM.)

Snot management.
The younger Free-Ride offspring insisted on going back to school today. While no longer feverish, the child is still sniffling a lot, so I provided a roll of toilet paper for nose-blowing and a plastic bag for containment of used TP.

“What if my classmates think I’m strange?”

“Tell them this is how the kids in college do it,” I replied.

“They might still think I’m strange.”

“Well, then blame it on me. Say this is what I gave you, so it’s me that’s strange, not you,” I said.

“But you’re not strange!”

“Yes I am! Here, let me kiss your forehead.”

Comments

  1. #1 estraven
    February 17, 2009

    I feed them warm milk and honey since they all have very strong cough. My mother’s version had cognac instead of honey: I think I started that around age 12, so it’s still a bit eraly for my offspring. Helps a lot at bedtime.

    And yes, I do kiss them on the forehead to estimate fever.

  2. #2 Eva
    February 17, 2009

    During SARS, we had to have our temperature taken every morning at work, because my lab was in a hospital. There were nurses and volunteers at the door, sticking ear thermometers in the ears of all the people rushing into work. Boring job, but they tried to make the most of it. One volunteer drew pictures and wrote motivating messages on the little card we got each day to prove that we were SARS-free. Another time, they were having a competition: when my temperature was measured, the guy looked at the read-out and said “YES! Lowest one this week! I have an undead one, here, guys!” and they all came to look how cold I was. (It was winter! The cold has seeped into the inside of my ears! If I actually had had SARS, I’d have registered normal and they wouldn’t even have known…)

  3. #3 grrlpup
    February 17, 2009

    So true– TP for nose-blowing will always mean college to me.

  4. #4 Salad Is Slaughter
    February 17, 2009

    Hot and sour soup and lots of it(especially those that use chili oil) is my current cold cure. You get plenty of liquid and the spices clear your head and taste good. I’ve been told that a spicy Thai soup also works well.

  5. #5 Dan R.
    February 18, 2009

    Meh… hand on the forehead probably isn’t a whole lot worse than an ear thermometer.

    Its been 4-5 years since I’ve looked at the studies, but at that time something like 50% of specifically trained critical care nurses couldn’t take an accurate temp with a tympanic thermometer — to the point of clinical significance.

  6. #6 bill
    February 18, 2009

    Whatever happened to placing the thermometer under the tongue? (And while I’m asking questions, what’s wrong with booze at 7am?)

  7. #7 estraven
    February 19, 2009

    @bill: booze makes me sleepy, so to have some before school or work is not a good idea. YMMV.
    On the other hand, I think you would have to skip the booze and go directly to anesthesia if you want to put a thermometer under any of my children’s tongue. You don’t want to be anywhere near the teeth when they’re awake.

  8. #8 christopher gwyn
    February 20, 2009

    Gargling with hydrogen peroxide is very good for sore throats. I used to be plagued with sore throats all winter long, but since I found out about gargling with hydrogen peroxide (the store-bought kind, not the rocket fuel concentration) I have not had a sore throat that lasted more than a few hours – and I have had far fewer sore throats overall.

    (Do not gargle with H2O2 more than once a month, unless you have someone to kiss regularly. The H2o2 kills both beneficial and problematic bacteria in your mouth, so only use it when experiencing sore throat symptoms. H2O2 is not a preventative.)

  9. #9 opony szczecin
    February 22, 2009

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