I’ve been in Orlando since the end of August, and all that time, I’ve been pretty healthy (except for the 2 days I spent in the hospital, discovering that I did not have a heart attack.) But no colds, no fever, no flu, no bug-that’s-been-going-around, no nothing. Until now, when I have absolutely no time for it.
A few weeks ago, just after I returned from Pennsylvania, I came down with a bad cold, which I still have not been able to completely shake. Then a couple of days ago, I started getting the body aches, lethargy, fatigue, and, at night, those interminable fever dreams that indicate an impending illness. It looks as though I might have dodged a bullet there, though: it doesn’t seem to be getting any worse. Good thing, too. I cannot afford to take any time off work (paid hourly) and I can’t afford the luxury of sitting around moaning when all this moving work needs to be done.
Last night, though, I discovered that I had a little bit of pain just below the jawbone on the right side, and I immediately thought, uh-oh! Swollen glands. Looking for “swollen glands” was the default examination my mom used to perform when my sister and I became ill. She’d probe around our necks and if swollen glands were discovered, that’s what went on our excuse notes for school absences. I never thought much about it, and didn’t know exactly what it meant. So today, I googled “swollen glands” and was surprised to find that Mom did apparently know what she was looking for. Apparently it’s the lymph nodes that swell up due to infection and other illnesses. They’re not really glands, though.
But that got me to thinking about other diseases of childhood that I don’t think kids get much anymore. Growing up, I had measles, German measles, chicken pox… but never mumps. I had an early version of the mumps vaccine when I was in about seventh grade, so I was spared that one. But do kids even get these things any more? For us, in the early ’60s, it was almost a rite of passage. So if you have a mild case of mumps, is it possible to just have a mump? Off the subject, what did they call it back in plague days if you survived the Black Death? Oh, I’m better now, thanks… I just came down with the 24-hour Black Death…
I also clearly remember not being allowed to go into the wading pool at Forest Park in Springfield, Massachusetts as a kid, because of the ever-lurking dangers of polio. And that was okay with me because Mom used to paint a pretty stark picture of life in a wheelchair if we were to contract that. But the thing that really terrified me was the possibility of life in an iron lung. That’s how Mom got me to take my TB vaccine at school without too much fuss.
Somehow, most of us seemed to escape iron lungs, crutches, wheelchairs… and, of course lockjaw. That was the penalty for stepping on a rusty nail without having had our tetanus shots. Terrifying stuff. And when I think back on it, I’ve never known or even heard of anyone ever getting the dreaded lockjaw.
- This is potentially addictive. You can now browse the archives and covers of the entire 137-year history of Popular Science. Free. On-line.
- A collection of strange and amusing pictures from… uh… places that are not the U.S.
- Relive the ’70s through fashion. If you dare. Who used the wear this stuff? WE did?
- The world’s first animated cartoon, from 1908: