Teddy got his first viral infection last week (read: first fever). Cue parental freak-out. Actually, I didn’t over-react…to begin with. He woke up from his nap Wednesday afternoon feeling really warm. He had a fever of 101.5. I calmly put him on his play mat, scanned the table of contents of all our baby books for “fever” and proceeded to learn all I could about high temperatures in babies–most importantly, what temp merits a phone call to the pediatrician. The way I read the baby book advice, I needn’t worry until Teddy’s temp hit 104. I breathed a sigh of relief, closed the books, and let him continue playing.
The next morning, Teddy’s temp read 102.7–still well under the 104 mark. I had every intention of going about my day as usual…until I chatted with a friend and mentioned Teddy’s fever. And she wondered why I wasn’t freaking out. So then I wondered if maybe I should be showing a bit more concern than I was. So I called my mother-in-law. She also wondered why I wasn’t freaking out, although she didn’t say so in so many words. Instead, she gently suggested that maybe a call to the doctor was in order.
Well shoot. If Grandma thinks I should call the doctor, I’m definitely calling the doctor. I called the nurse triage line, a wonderful system that allows frantic parents to leave messages for the nurse on duty, who assesses each situation and returns calls in order of severity. My first message exceeded the time allowed (I’ve never been good about leaving messages, and now I know that holds true for “brief” ones about my child’s illness), so I had to delete it and begin again.
I love the nurse triage line. A very calm nurse returned my call within 45 minutes (I wasn’t truly frantic at this point; I was only wondering if I should be, so 45 minutes felt quite reasonable). She asked about Teddy’s symptoms and assuaged my concern–so far, it seemed Teddy was suffering from a viral infection, which would work itself out without assistance and wasn’t cause for concern. The nurse advised me to monitor his temp over the next 18 hours or so, and if it was still over 102 by noon the next day, we could come in to make sure we weren’t dealing with an ear infection or something else bacterial.
Because evidently any temp over 102 can indicate something serious.
Hmm. Maybe I read the baby book advice wrong…
The next morning (Friday, in case you’ve lost track), I took Teddy’s temp first thing. 102.7. Commence freaking out. I called the doctor’s office and made an appointment for early afternoon. My gut still said Teddy was fine. He was fussier than usual, but he had all the symptoms of a bad cold and none of the symptoms of something more serious. But when the nurse recommends you come in to get your child checked out, you do.
There’s something very reassuring about being in a doctor’s exam room. Even if my intuition was wrong and it turned out Teddy was more seriously ill than I thought, there was someone right there who had gone through years of schooling to learn how to diagnose his sickness and treat it. (Although it was a good thing this wasn’t our first visit: the office lobby, usually bustling with parents and babies and receptionists, was under construction and filled with plastic tarp–it didn’t inspire much confidence.)
The doctor (not our usual pediatrician) questioned me about the last few days and examined Teddy. She concluded what I thought: Teddy had a bad cold. However, she noted that not everything is visible to the naked eye; if Teddy still had a temp over 102 the next morning (which would be going on 48 hours), we should come back the next day to have blood work done. But for the time being, she sent us home.
Later that afternoon, after the doctor’s office was closed for the day, I took Teddy’s temp again: 103.1. Commence hysteria. Teddy was so shocked to see Mommy crying, he stopped fussing. I called Mike, who stopped by the bank to get out cash in case we needed to get a cab to make a midnight run to the ER. (I’m so thankful he thinks of those details.) Then I called the nurse triage line our insurance company provides.
I really love these triage lines. It is so reassuring to have an authoritative voice on the other end of the line telling you your child is probably ok. She did suggest, for my own peace of mind, that I call our doctor’s after-hours line, which until then I didn’t know existed. Dr. Hamburger was the on-call doctor Friday night. (How can you not love a pediatric office that has a Dr. Hamburger?!) She assured me that a temp of 103 did not automatically warrant a visit to the ER, especially since Teddy had been checked out just a few hours earlier. She said I was welcome to call again during the night if Teddy’s symptoms changed. Although she did politely encourage me to think twice before calling. Evidently, doctors like their sleep, too.
That evening, we marveled that a child with a temp of 103 could play happily in his exersaucer. I kept reminding myself to not obsess about why Teddy wasn’t acting how I thought a sick baby should act and instead be thankful that he wasn’t inconsolably fussy. Mike distracted me from said obsession and the possibility of horrors “invisible to the naked eye” by being Candidate Teddy’s voice as he railed against the injustice of having his nose wiped and vowed to do away with Big Kleenex. (Seriously, the kid hates it when we wipe his nose. When we use regular Kleenex, he screams like he’s getting his shots. When we use Boogie Wipes, moistened towelettes that are a brilliant marketing gimmick, though, he merely whimpers.) I giggled watching Mike raise Teddy’s fist as he delivered his “platform.”
That night, Teddy woke us at 11:30. His crying had us dashing to the nursery. We suspected hunger (he hadn’t eaten well the previous day), but took his temp first: 99.1. His fever had broken! After doing a little happy dance, we fed him and put him back to bed, relieved that a Saturday trip to the doctor was no longer necessary. Saturday morning, Mike again took Teddy’s temp again and verified that it was indeed back in safe territory. We had all survived Teddy’s first illness.