Kids get sick a lot. Which means that you will get sick a lot. But as much as you feel like you want to die, it doesn’t excuse you from parenting. (Spoiler: nothing does!). So prepare your mind and body with a little prescriptive knowledge from a guy who sees cases like yours every single day.
“The most common question I get is, ‘Can I get this?’,” says Dr. Matthew Murray at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Dr. Murray attends to the sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, and fevers of more than 90,000 kids a year (including his own at home). “Most of these [diseases] are super contagious, but the reason that parents don’t get them is because they’ve formed antibodies to fight them off.”
Here’s a not-at-all-comprehensive list of the childhood illnesses your kid will encounter, how likely you are to get them, and if they’re severe enough to take down a full-grown man. Because when it comes to getting sick, we’re all kind of babies.
Will You Get It?: Did your kid start a new daycare? Have they gone back to school after a break? Have they projectile vomited into your mouth? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then most likely.
How Sick Will You Be?: Gastroenteritis isn’t usually as severe in adults as it is in children. “Some people have a little nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea to deal with,” says Murray. That doesn’t sound so bad. After all, you’re used to dealing with poop.
Care Instructions: Switch to clear liquids. “It’s lighter and going to pass through your system faster,” says Dr. Murray. Also, try to drink smaller amounts more frequently. And science has made modest claims about the effectiveness of ginger ale on nausea. No reports the efficacy of Dr. Pepper, though.
Will You Get It?: “They’re really disgusting,” says Dr. Murray, and this is a man who is elbow deep in bodily fluids for a living. Most common in school-age children ages 5 to 10, the “worms” are tiny parasites that are thinner than a grain of rice and twice as long. The females crawl out of your butt, lay eggs, then those eggs enter the intestinal tract … let’s just say if you’re not careful, you can get them. “Parents usually see it, freak out and run into the emergency department,” he says
How Sick Will You Be?: If you have itchy worms coming out of your ass, God is dead.
Care Instructions: You can tell that your kid might have it because they’re itching their butt … more than normal. There’s anti-worm medicine that gets rid of the parasites, but the fear — the fear will stay with you forever.
Will You Get It?: When adults get RSV, it looks like a sore throat or a cough. “We don’t end up too severely ill unless you have something else going on,” says Dr. Murray. But while it’s not a big deal for parents, in the U.S., 800,000 infants will require outpatient care for RSV in the first year of life. Be vigilant for the kid. Nobody cares about you.
How Sick Will You Be?: Not very, and that’s because your adult-sized trachea is better equipped to handle inflammation. You might have some scratchiness and redness, but in a child, that mucus can cause breathing issues.
Care Instructions: Ricola for you. Pediatrician for the kids.
Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease
Will You Get It?: You’re more likely to get the coxsackievirus that causes hand, foot, and mouth disease if you weren’t exposed to it while you were growing up. “It can be carried in any bodily fluid and is easily passed along,” says Dr. Murray, who says it’s the reason your daycare is so susceptible. “There’s nothing dirtier than changing a diaper, and the fecal-oral route is extremely common.”
How Sick Will You Be?: Have you ever seen The Fly? “Coxsackie is a respiratory virus, so you’ll have typical cold symptoms first. Then you get an uncomfortable feeling in your hands and feet. And it doesn’t have to start with a rash,” he says. Eventually, you’ll get painful blisters on your palms, soles, and mouth. This makes walking hurt, eating difficult, and handball downright impossible.
Care Instructions: The blisters can last a week or longer. Your only option is to wait it out. (Or plead with Geena Davis to end your human/fly life with a shotgun.)
Will You Get It?: Streptococcus is a pretty common bacteria in everyone, so most likely. If you have a fever, sore throat, big lymph nodes under your jaw, and pus on your tonsils, you have strep throat. If you’re feeling decent and have a cough, you probably don’t.
How Sick Will You Be?: While Dr. Murray tends to treat those who are strep positive, you could potentially ride it out without antibiotics. Just realize that you’re gambling on getting a more severe version of the illness and may be contagious for weeks longer.
Care Instructions: You can get that prescription for antibiotics or not. But popsicles are mandatory.
Will You Get It?: Strep bacteria on the skin is as nasty as strep in the throat. Impetigo causes disgusting yellow lesions on your kid, and disgusting, slightly different, lesions on you. “We see lots of topical skin infections in adults,” says Dr. Murray. “But we tend to see more cellulitis.”
How Sick Will You Be?: How do you feel about scabs on your face that are “honey crusted”? Stopping impetigo is mostly about hygiene. Wash hands. Wash clothes. Wash those bed sheets. Burn everything else.
Care Instructions: Get some topical antibiotics and you should be ok. In more severe cases you’ll need a course of oral or IV antibiotics.
Will You Get It?: “It’s awful. It’s really, really contagious. Probably 95 percent of it is viral, and it may start with a runny nose, cough, low-grade fever. If you’re in the same house, you’re at high risk of getting it,” says Dr. Murray.
How Sick Will You Be?: Your eyes will be a little itchy, but your neighbors will put quarantine tape around your house.
Care Instructions: “If you have thick drainage from your eyes, and they’re glued together when you wake up, you may want some topical antibiotics.” he says.
Whooping Cough, Scarlet Fever, and Roseola
Will you get it? In order of likeliness: Slim chance, slimmer chance, and no chance. But, these are three pretty terrible maladies for the kid.
How Sick Will You Be? As you may have read recently, whooping cough is making a comeback in children under 10 (which is why DTaP vaccines are mandatory for school-aged kids), but Dr. Murray can’t recall the last time he treated an adult for it. If you’re concerned, get a booster.
Untreated strep throat could turn into a grown-up version of scarlet fever, complete with red rash and high fever. And roseola — you’re not going to get roseola. And if you do, your doctor owes you a Coke.