Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 502: Is there an epidemiologist in the house?

Or a microbiologist, maybe?

Remember when I happily reported that the big kids’ overnight camp was officially COVID-free? It still is, but all three of my kids (and a few other kids I know of) came home with a cold. It went around camp and the entire time everyone tested negative for COVID.

What I want to know from the science-y types out there: how is it that a common cold virus was able to outlast or circumvent all the strict anti-COVID protocols, including 2 weeks of reduced contact and then isolation before camp, and two weeks of masking and distancing at camp? By the time the masks came off in week three (after repeated negative COVID tests), how was there a cold virus to go around?


Alas, our almost-five-hundred-day streak of no sickness in the house has come to an end. I’ve caught the camp cold; Mr. December and E are both fine.

Even though I’m certain it’s not COVID, I went for a test anyway because I wasn’t sure about some of the wording on the health screening for E’s day camp. The entire way there (I had to drive to Brampton because no test centres in Toronto were open late enough) I was thinking, “This is a dumb idea. I should just stay home in bed and get better.”

It reminded me of the time that we took ten-week-old R to the hospital because she had a fever (any fever in a baby younger than three months needs to be assessed, usually with a spinal tap to rule out meningitis.) Now, our entire family had some kind of virus and it was pretty obvious to me that R’s fever was a result of her big brother and sister kissing her and then coughing at her. But still, the doctor’s office insisted, so we went to the hospital.

Suffice it to say that the hospital visit was awful—R didn’t stop crying the whole time—and in the end they decided based on the history they took that no spinal tap would be necessary (thank God.) In short, after several hours the doctors came to the same conclusion that I did: the baby was sick because her siblings and parents were sick. I promise you, I bit my tongue and didn’t say the first thing that came to my mind, something along the lines of “For this, you needed to go to medical school?”

(To be fair, when you’ve been sick and injured a fair bit yourself, and you have four kids with all the usual childhood illnesses and injuries, you really do develop the ability to assess this kind of thing pretty accurately.

Every time something like this happens—my armchair diagnosis is confirmed by doctors—I mutter to myself that I really should’ve gone to medical school. At least then I’d feel justified in skipping the unnecessary testing.

8 thoughts on “Day 502: Is there an epidemiologist in the house?

  1. I agree with Wendy – it probably came in on a surface. Thankfully, COVID doesn’t survive very long on surfaces, unlike other viruses. Not as many precautions as at your kids’ camp, but my daughter and several classmates (and then the rest of our family) all caught a cold after a couple of weeks back at school, despite full masking, ventilation, and social distancing and I was like “whoah, that cold virus is tough stuff!”. It was weird to get sick again after so long without.

  2. They came home with a cold- so they got a cold at camp, not from the groceries. It only had to be transmitted to one person at a time (including via surfaces) and they weren’t wearing masks to eat, or sleep, or bathe, or possibly while outside. The adults probably took their masks off when they weren’t around children. And distancing is actually pretty pointless compared to exposure duration (risk is exposure magnitude multiplied by…. time).

    (I am a biochemist. I can tell you all about how long various things live on surfaces!)

    1. Yeah, that’s what I meant – the grocery delivery at camp. And I was also thinking about camp staff interactions with outside folks who might have a cold – like say the person doing the grocery delivery.

      1. Fair! But other humans and grocery deliveries at camp, I’d still give equal probability. It’s not even beyond possibility that 1-2 kids passed it around for a few weeks and then… gave it to everyone.

    2. OMG I kind of mis-read that one as “licking your children” and was about to point out that you had it backwards—usually it’s the kids licking me. But then I read it again and now my quip isn’t funny. I’m super glad to have an actual biochemist piping in, though!

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