Twice now I have thought that Little Bear had chickenpox, and twice I have been wrong.
The first time was last summer. She was feeling under the weather, had a low fever and a day or two later broke out in a rash all over her body. I immediately assumed it was the chickenpox, because the pediatrician had recommended she get that vaccine and I had declined for the time being. I called her doctor’s office to let them know my diagnosis, and the nurse skeptically told me I should come into the office so they could figure out, “what was really going on.” After checking her out, the doctor said Little Bear didn’t appear to have chickenpox, because she didn’t have any raised blisters. She told me that there are a number of viruses that can cause a rash in children. She then showed me some photos of chickenpox so that I would know what to look for in the future.
After that I intended to get her the varicella vaccination, but due to our move Little Bear has gotten slightly behind in her well-child visits. Last week she came down with a fever of about 102. I knew she was having chills, because she was shivering and seemed to be feeling awful. She went to bed early and then seemed fine the next day (Thursday), although we noticed she was scratching her tongue in the evening. The following day she also seemed to be doing pretty well, although a little less energetic than usual. That evening at bath time I saw that she had some bumps on her elbows and feet. These bumps were raised and I thought they looked like the pictures of chickenpox the doctor had showed me. The next day she had a red rash all over her feet, and also on her hands. She had a few spots on her legs, but none on her torso or face.
I assumed she must have a mild case of the chickenpox. One that didn’t appear to be itchy, and was only attacking very specific body parts. Strange perhaps, but what else could it be? We kept her quarantined, which was fairly easy to do since we were in the midst of a once-a-decade snowstorm and couldn’t drive anywhere.
The following Wednesday my aunt was telling my cousin about it, and my cousin said, “Are you sure it’s chickenpox? That sounds like what my daughters had last year — hand, foot and mouth disease.”
I googled hand, foot and mouth disease and it seemed to match Little Bear’s symptoms. At that point, she still had a mild rash on her feet and a runny nose. She had a well-child visit scheduled for that afternoon, so Grandpa graciously drove us through the still snowy roads to her doctor’s office. When I told the receptionist that Little Bear was recovering from hand, foot and mouth disease she seemed skeptical. “Is she on medication for that?”
But after examining her, our wonderful pediatrician said, “I agree with your diagnosis Ursula. This looks like classic hand, foot and mouth disease. It’s been going around.”