Subscribe to this Blog
Today's Blogs
    The Checkup:

The Dreaded Strep Is on the Loose

Dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of times when I was a kid, doctors thought I had strep throat. Getting those long Q-tip swabs shoved down my throat became a part of going to the doctor. And not once did I ever test positive ...

Until now. Husband and four-year-old started the disease in our house about three weeks ago. Sore throats, achy ears and bodies, fever, headaches, nausea. Only a little coughing; mostly just a lot of flu-like symptoms. Six-year-old and I began looking like we had the greatest immune systems in the world. Dad and son recovered, we washed sheets, I threw away four-year-old's toothbrush, and we all went on with our usual lives.

Except for now. It's rare for me to use a sick day for me. I usually reserve them for when I need to stay home with a sick child -- such as one with strep...ahem. Anyway, it's kind of hard to show up at the office with a contagious disease, particularly after your doctor looks you in the eye and says, "No going to the office for two days. And rest. Don't work." At least I listened to part of her orders. I am at home.

Well, except for that trip to the pediatrician for another sick child strep test. Thankfully, negative, though the nurses who were coming out of room after room swabbing kids said he was surrounded by kids who had strep. So, clearly, it's not just our house.

Oh, and about that rest; it's elusive when you have kids. Four-year-old's ear hurts, so into my bed he comes in the middle of the night. The boys play -- then fight. And, of course, they still need to be fed, bathed and read to. Then, there's the boy-rough-and-tumble play. Grabbing my back. Pulling on my shirt. Sibling arguments.

Anyone else have strep or a kid with it? Are you keeping your infectious little ones and selves away from the park and school or are your sick days too valuable? And how do you rest and recover when you're sick and your kids aren't?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 29, 2008; 7:15 AM ET
Previous: Mother-Daughter Spa Time | Next: Four Bucks a Gallon?!


No strep here. Knock on wood.

It is extremely hard to recover when you are also taking care of a sick or well child. I think it is hardest when the child is well and you are sick. Because they don't understand that you need to just rest.

I had bronchitis this winter at the same time my daughter had flu like symptoms. She recovered in two days but I was sick for around 5. The last three days were brutal.

Posted by: foamgnome | May 29, 2008 7:26 AM | Report abuse

"are your sick days too valuable?" Seriously? For STREP? Look, there's a lot of grey area in terms of when your kids are too sick to go to daycare/school -- but strep isn't anywhere near that line.

Knock on wood, we've avoided strep this year -- didn't even know it was going around. But over the past two years, we've had two big nasties that cycled through the whole family -- dragging my butt out of bed after throwing up all afternoon, so I could hold my daughter while she threw up all over the bathroom, is NOT one of my favorite parenting moments (although I gotta say, now I laugh at what we must have looked like, both almost passed out on the bathroom floor). We've been lucky that most times, only one parent at a time is going through the worst of it -- and my folks nearby to help take the non-sick kid for a bit. But when everything goes wrong, and everyone's sick, and no one's available to help, you just say "this sucks," and then you drag yourself up and go do it, because your kids need you.

Plus I remind myself that it's still better than childbirth. :-)

Posted by: Laura | May 29, 2008 7:54 AM | Report abuse

" But when everything goes wrong, and everyone's sick, and no one's available to help, you just say "this sucks," and then you drag yourself up and go do it, because your kids need you. "

Wow! What a brilliant solution! Call the Times, alert Washington, wire Stockholm!

Posted by: Stop looking for the brass band & a parade for being a parent | May 29, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

To poster from 8:11 AM:

Wow! Heaven forbid we discuss our parenting experiences on a parenting blog! Just what were you expecting to find here?

Posted by: MaryB | May 29, 2008 8:24 AM | Report abuse

No strep in our house although my poor son has been tested twice - sore throat, fever, very cranky but it's a virus apparently. I kept him home from school for a bit but he's fine now. So far the rest of us are clear. I actually don't know if I've ever had strep, definitely not as an adult and I cannot remember if I did as a kid. My kids have severals times and my husband caught it from one them right before a vacation - big bummer.

I almost never take sick days for me either unless I am really in bad shape. Once I had my husband bring the kids to daycare and stayed home myself. That's the way to get some rest. But, usually I just get these little colds which are not too bad with lots of OTC meds. I have a private office and just muscle through the day. The big problem is that even if I have just a slight cold, my sleep is the first to go -- the congestion. So, I'm just a zombie. Because of that it's actually more relaxing to close my door and slowly work through my in box than to be at home with the kids when I'm in that state.

Posted by: Pt Fed Mof2 | May 29, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Strep is a viscious disease and VERY contagious. I had it at least 2 dozen times as a kid. As an adult, I've had it a few times. The past 2 years have been particularly bad. I've had strep and/or tonsilitis 4 times. The worst one was last 4th of July. I literaly woke up at 3 AM on July 2nd and could not swallow. I was fine when I went to bed at 12! I then took my girls to the doctor that morning to get them checked becasue they had been cranky and out of sorts for 2 days. They were both fine. I then walked down the hall of the physican office building and made myself an appointment. They couldn't fit me in for another 2 hours, so we had to kill time until then. In those 2 hours of hell, the chills/aches/pains came on. By the time my appointment arrived, I was close to tears. (and my blood pressure was the highest reading I've ever had!) Rapid strep test came back negative, so the doctor said tonsilitis. Got antibiotics and called my husband to come home so I could crawl into bed. On the 3rd of July, I sent him and the kids to his parents house since I ruined our chances of going to the beach for the holiday. (not a good idea to sit in the sun with a 102 degree fever.) The girls were just as happy with the new plan. My husband was not - he woke up on the 4th with a blinding headache and sore throat. So he spent all morning at the walk in clinic. His strep test was positive and the doctor said it was tonsilitis too. Thank god for the in-laws! They took the girls to the parade and festivities! Meanwhile I was still in bed and my throat was getting worse. I called the doctor and they said it was probably strep now but a new test would be inaccurate since I was already on antibiotics! I finally felt better and could swallow easily 2 days later. My kids and husband came home. One daughter got strep a few days later and then my husband got it AGAIN a few days after that!

So the moral of the story is, strep throat SUCKS and is VERY VERY contagious. Don't go to work if you have it and don't send your kids to school/day care/friends houses!

Posted by: LBH219 | May 29, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

The baby (11 months) had strep two weeks ago, but the almost 4-y.o.'s sore throat this week was a virus. Both are better! SAHD takes care of them during the day, but the nighttime wake-ups are usually my responsibility, because like ptfedm02, I can rest a bit during the day (sitting in my office) and he can't.

Posted by: ep | May 29, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

And then there's the possibility that someone in your household harbors the bug but exhibits no symptoms. I was that person as a preschooler and kept reinfecting my brother and father until the pediatrician got wise and tested me. Perhaps it would be a good idea to test the whole household every time someone comes down with strep.

Posted by: MaryB | May 29, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

How timely. My strep test came back positive yesterday and I've been miserable. Praying the kids won't get it. Husband out of the country for a conference and I was at my parents house. At least I had help with the kids, but at 65, my mom and disabled dad had trouble caring for a sassy 4yr old and extremely active, crawling 1 yr old. So there was little rest for me!

Posted by: jill | May 29, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

3/5 household members are currently on antibiotics for Strep we picked up at a birthday party. Each stayed at home until they they had been on antibiotics for 24 hours.

The symptoms were all over the board:
Mom - sore neck and spotted throat
4yo - vomiting, no sore throat
2yo - 99 degree fever

Posted by: drmommy | May 29, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

MaryB, I was that person in elem school--my dad had to come to the school to get me when the strep test came back positive.

I haven't had strep since I had my tonsils out at age 18 (had them out because I had strep three times in a row, like clockwork immediately after getting off antibiotics.

My daughter came home sick from school one day, stayed home the next, seemed fine. Then it was the weekend, engaged fully in all activities on Saturday. Sister felt ill on Sat night. No church Sunday, no school MTWTF. On Mon, the younger one (now seemingly better) had a rash around her mouth. I put hydrocortisone on it and it went away. By Tuesday she complained that her bottom hurt. It was red, so I had her take a long bath (maybe she wasn't wiping well enough?). Didn't help, she still complained Weds night. At school all this time. Thurs her sister woke up with a rash around her mouth and by this time the bottom redness had become a rash. Afternoon appointments for both. The doctor took one look at the bottom rash and pronounced rectal strep and prescribed augmentin since she'd had it so long. Sister had strep also, got amoxicillin since hers was more recently acquired. Augmentin girl recovered well. Amoxicillin girl was better but not 100%. Within 24 hours after going off the antibiotic, she had white spots on her throat--So on Augmentin she went. Finally she got better.

During this time, I had the worst ear infection ever recorded on the history of the planet--I could feel a ball of goo rolling around in my ear, and I got dizzy spells from the discomfort. At least once, we all had doctor appointments on the same day (I think twice). I was on one antibiotic for a week, then switched to Biaxin for two weeks.

To top it all off, the cat needed antibiotic for part of this time, so at one point, all four of us were on drugs.

Which reminds me that when I was in college I sang in a choir that traveled during spring break each year. One year many of us got sick immediately before leaving. I went to the university health center and the doctor asked me at one point what I was doing for spring break. When I told him, he asked, "Did I already ask you that?" No, I replied, but half the group has been to the health center this week, so you've probably heard it from someone else. Then when we were on tour, the choir director told the audience one night, "You have probably heard that a lot of college students are on drugs. Well that is true tonight with this group!" And he went on to explain, lest the crowd think it was illegal drugs.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

My daughter has had strep once or twice a year for the past three years. Fortunately, I've never gotten it. She typically gets a relatively sudden, VERY high (over 103) fever, complains that her throat hurts, and vomits. Last time, my husband thought it was "just a bad cold" because she hadn't vomited, but I dragged her in to the doctor and sure enough, she had strep. I'm usually the one who stays home with her because I seem not to get it (knock on wood). I just feel so bad for my little one - she gets SO hot and is so miserable. That's what sick days are for - especially if you are sick too! Feel better.

Posted by: PLS | May 29, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

"During this time, I had the worst ear infection ever recorded on the history of the planet--"

Toggle this post as the worst (fill in the blank).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I have has strep 3 times since February (different strains!); my oldest has had it 3 times since November; husband and youngest daughter have been "lucky" to have only had it once. It is everywhere this season.

Posted by: JL | May 29, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I meant to continue - I absolutely stay at home/keep the kids at home with strep. The problem has been that my oldest doesn't exhibit most of the symptoms, so I can't isolate her soon enough.

Posted by: JL | May 29, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Stop looking for the brass band & a parade for being a parent | May 29, 2008 8:11 AM

Yes, how silly of me: I forget to mention getting up out of the vomit to make sure my husband had called the Nobel committee.

We've had 2 rounds of strep over the past few years. When DD was 3, she started wheezing and coughing, but told me her throat didn't hurt. We went to the doc, who diagnosed asthma (she was actually hooked up to a nebulizer when the test results came in). Boy, did I feel hugely stupid in the waiting room for the lab tests, surrounded by totally sacked out kids and parents while mine is literally trying to jump off the furniture. We were all -- including the doc -- stunned when the test came back positive.

Then there was the Dec. 23 when I woke up with a golf ball in my throat. I knew it was strep, and with a 6-week-old nursing baby to worry about, I went straight to the doc. He didn't believe me, since I had no visible symptoms, but humored me and ran the test -- and then spent the rest of the appointment asking me how I knew. Which surprised me; I mean, it's one of those sore throats that you just can't mistake for anything else.

Posted by: Laura | May 29, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

"Yes, how silly of me: I forget to mention getting up out of the vomit to make sure my husband had called the Nobel committee."

Big deal. Yur constant martyr act on this blog is pathetic.

Posted by: Stop looking for the brass b and & a parade for being a parent | May 29, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I've been looking all day and can't find a danged brass band! Know where I can find one?

Posted by: MaryB | May 29, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse


"I've been looking all day and can't find a danged brass band! Know where I can find one?"

Check out the WaPo "On Balance" blog. Lots & lots of folks with waay too much free time and money. They love to congratulate themselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

The only time I had strep (age 8) it turned into scarlet fever. My parents had company over and they said if my throat was green I might have scarlet fever
instead of strep. Fortunately the medicine was the same in the 1970's for strep and scarlet fever and I had two days of it before the scarlet fever diagnosis.

Fortunately my eyesight or hearing were not affected by scarlet fever. This was the disease that Helen Keller had and the real life sister of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Posted by: shdd | May 29, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Stacey, so sorry to hear you are sick!

I agree, it is absolutely miserable being sick when you are a parent. I remember before my kids were born -- when sickness was limited to maybe 2 days every 3-4 years -- it was a vacation to be home sick. Contagion kept me from the office, and the only thing I had to do was stay in bed, drink fluids, and maybe read a book or watch a bit of TV if I felt up to it in the afternoon.

Now, after 6 years of parenthood I have had a stomach flu 4x, pink eye 2x, strep 1x, tonsilitis 2x, not to mention various other viruses, bugs, rashes, and other things non-parents just aren't exposed to. (Plus the occasional migraine, which I never had before the kids!)

My only "advice" is to sleep WHENEVER someone else is taking care of the kids. Definitely during school or daycare hours, and as soon as the kids go to bed at night. It's helpful if your partner, other family member, or friend can take them at other times. If the kids are sick too, (and, yes, strep, any fever, or any rash means no school for at least 24+ after the 1st dose of antibiotic or fever gone) I say EVERYONE TO BED! And, if they are up, this is the perfect time to break out the DVDs. One viewing of Cars = almost 2 hours of rest!

Posted by: nvamom | May 29, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I caught a stomach bug a few months ago that had me utterly down for two days. It completely reaffirmed my choice to not reproduce and I can't imagine how parents manage to do it if they don't have other family members or caretakers to come and help. I cried just trying to get out of bed to go pee!

Posted by: Liz D | May 29, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Yay for public health care -- sort of. I got strep two years ago at Christmas, and went to a public clinic to get it checked, right before they closed for the New Year (they closed for about a week after New Years). After getting pecked at from the doctor about how I was being a hypochondriac, and after trying to explain that I'm a TEACHER and can NOT go back to work if I'm contagious, I got a call the last day of service saying "I needed to come in and pick up my prescription immediately" about two hours before they closed, then had to go to another hospital in another Valley to get it filled, which closed just as I was getting there. I spent all of New Year's and about a week after on my mom's couch in horrific pain.


Posted by: Kat | May 29, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Had strep pretty often as a kid. Grateful to my small-town pharmacist who would mix the pepto, chloraseptic, and cough medicine for a very relieving gargle. Think they'd still do that at CVS?

Posted by: Jules | May 30, 2008 4:53 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company