coronavirus · health · pain · pituitary · top tips · Uncategorized

Coping With Pain When You Can’t Use Painkillers

Firstly, I want to make it totally clear that I’m not advocating that people shouldn’t use painkillers to manage pain. But thanks to the current coronavirus lockdown, I’ve had a couple of situations where I couldn’t use my normal painkillers, and it got me thinking about coping with pain when you can’t use painkillers.

I have chronic pain from my hypermobility spectrum disorder that flares up now and then, especially when the temperature changes rapidly from hot to cold or vice versa. Usually if it gets particularly bad, I take ibuprofen (Advil, for any Americans). However, since France issued a warning about using non-steroidal inflammatory painkillers during the covid 19 pandemic, I’ve tried to avoid taking it even though the evidence is not really clear either way.

Then I also have an issue with very bad sinus headaches, which is a hangover from two lots of brain surgery done via my nose (transsphenoidal surgery). They get so bad that they also have the fun side effect of making me very nauseous, to the point that I have actually thrown up from them several times. They are aggravated by pollen/hayfever, so tend to get worse at this time of year. Normally, I would take paracetamol because ibuprofen doesn’t work for them… But we don’t have much paracetamol in the house, and it’s been hard to get hold of lately with the coronavirus panic buying. So again, I’ve been trying to avoid taking painkillers.

And so, I thought I’d write a post about some of the ways that I find helpful for coping with pain (especially joint pain, because that’s my most common issue). They probably won’t work for everyone, or every type of pain, but I hope you might find it useful anyway.

Coping With Pain When You Can’t Use Painkillers

1. Heat

I find that heat is so great for managing my joint pain. Pre-baby, I would often try to have a bath or at least a hot shower if they were playing up, as it helps the pain so effectively that I often wouldn’t need to take painkillers at all. Now I have a three-month old baby, I can’t just run off for a bath at the drop of a hat (sadly). So I use a hot water bottle or (preferably) a microwaveable wheat bag. Extra layers also works, but while it’s easy to put extra pairs of thick socks on if my ankles or feet are hurting, it’s not so easy to layer up and warm up a hip joint.

Conversely, ice can also help certain types of pain, especially sports injuries.

2. Breathing Exercises

When I was pregnant, I did an online hypnobirthing course with The Positive Birth Company. Well, actually I did about 60% of the course, because I was totally caught out by Little Man arriving three weeks early. One of the big aspects of hypnobirthing is using breathing exercises to manage pain. I found this really useful when giving birth; I think it’s particularly good for pain which is severe but comes and goes – like, say, having a baby…

3. Distract, Distract, Distract

I always find my joint pain is worst at night, when I’m in bed and trying to sleep. But actually, chances are that it’s not any worse then than it is any other time; it’s just that there aren’t any distractions to take my mind off my poor sad joints. Even something as simple as listening to music or reading a book can help take your mind off ongoing low-level pain. For worse pain, something interactive and requiring concentration is better as it forces your attention away from what’s hurting – like playing a game or reading aloud.

4. Movement and Massage

Probably depends on what’s causing your pain, but for my joint pain, gentle movement is really helpful to take the pressure off my joints. The other day, I was holding Little Man, who was finally sleeping after a very grumpy day (he didn’t poop for three days! Enough to make anyone grumpy I’m sure), and my hips were playing up so badly but I didn’t want to move him! When he eventually woke up, I went to do some chores in the kitchen and the pain in my joints improved significantly just from the movement.

Linked to this, massage can be really great for pain – although obviously some pain locations are more accessible than others.

5. Physiotherapy

Following on from the above, in the longer term, physio can help with some forms of chronic pain. I always assumed physiotherapy wasn’t really very effective, because I’d known a lot of people complain that it didn’t work for them. But when I was pregnant with Little Man, I actually tried physiotherapy for the first time, and I found it incredibly effective.

My hip pain got a lot worse very early on, from the pregnancy hormones (which make your joints looser) and extra weight. It was so bad that I was waking up constantly throughout the night in huge amounts of pain from my hip partially dislocating in my sleep. Then I would swap sides and sleep on the other side for a bit, until that one started hurting and woke me up to swap sides again. It wasn’t fun, although I guess it was great practice for waking up constantly at night with the baby once he arrived! In fact, even on bad nights when he was teeny tiny, Little Man woke me up significantly less frequently than my hips had done throughout my pregnancy.

It took a number of weeks to get an appointment with a physio, but I got there, did a full assessment and got several exercises aimed at strengthening the muscles around my hips, to hold the joint in place better. It was about six weeks of religiously doing the exercises before I noticed results, but the improvement was really noticeable and made such a huge difference to the rest of my pregnancy. So, if you haven’t already – I recommend giving physio a try.

6. Check Skeletal Alignment and Muscle Tension

If this one sounds super hippy-dippy, bear with me. A few years ago, I realised that my headaches (normal headaches, as opposed to sinus headaches where the pain is in the front of my face around the nose and eyes) are often either caused or at least aggravated by tension in my neck and shoulders. It could be from sleeping funny, being crouched over a laptop, or just being stressed and tensing up. Making a conscious effort to relax my neck and shoulders (maybe coupled with a gentle massage) can really help relieve those headaches.

Similarly, with my joints, I’ve realised that when I’m experiencing joint pain the first thing to do is check the alignment of the joint, i.e. are the bones lined up straight or am I sitting, moving or tensing in a way that sends pressure though my joints in an unnatural way. Because I have hypermobility, it’s easy for my joints to partially dislocate or just misalign without me actually noticing, and that can unsurprisingly cause pain.

7. Keep Active

When I was first diagnosed with hypermobility spectrum disorder (as it’s now known), the rheumatologist told me that the most important thing to keep pain at bay was to keep active and build up muscle to support my joints. At the moment, on lockdown, I’m doing yoga pretty much every day with my husband and it’s great exercise that’s very low-impact and thus kind on your joints. I definitely recommend it, and you can find specific yoga flows online that are tailored to particular issues, such as lower back pain or crappy hips (technical term).

Your top tips for coping with pain when you can’t use painkillers:

Do you have any tips or techniques for pain management/coping with pain without medication that work for you? Let me know in the comments below!

coping with pain when you can't use painkillers strategies and tips for chronic pain without medication the sickly mama blog
coronavirus · Just for fun · pop culture · Uncategorized

Which ‘Friends’ Character Each Country Would Be, Based On Their Response To The Coronavirus Pandemic

Can you tell I’ve been watching too much Netflix?

1. China – Ross Geller

Did China have a moral responsibility to warn the international community sooner about the threat of the emerging coronavirus? Well, some people think so. But China disagrees. Perhaps because they were ON A BREAK.

Like that time where Ross decided not to tell Rachel they were still married, China kept Covid 19 on the down low, presumably hoping that the problem would somehow just go away of its own accord. And, just like Ross and his history of unwise marital choices, China too has previous for this kind of behaviour (cough cough SARS cover-up, 2002).

2. South Korea – Monica Geller


China’s little sister used to be much bigger, but lost a bunch of weight landmass to the Communists at the end of the Second World War.

South Korea has kept its coronavirus death toll low through a rigorous programme of testing, treating and tracing contacts, plus social distancing measures. This is exactly the kind of country that’s obsessed with hygiene and has 11 categories of towels.

3. United Kingdom – Chandler Bing


No-one knows what Chandler’s job actually is, and similarly no-one really knows what the UK government was doing with all the time it had to prepare for the impact of coronavirus. Even the Prime Minister treated Covid 19 as an opportunity to crack tasteless jokes… How very Chandler Bing. Many experts now believe the UK will be one of the worst-affected European nations. Could we BE any worse at responding to a global pandemic?

If only the pandemic had taken place during a later season of Friends, the UK might have benefited more from the shining example of Monica/South Korea. Unfortunately, we’re still in the early seasons, with the UK in a co-dependent relationship with Joey…

4. United States – Joey Tribbiani


The USA’s response to coronavirus can best be described as… confused. Like the time that Joey got fired from Days Of Our Lives for claiming that he wrote all his own lines, Donald Trump has been called out for spreading fake news about coronavirus, such as saying that it’s a hoax and that one day the virus will just disappear “like a miracle”.

Germany reacted furiously when 200,000 American-made protective masks destined for Berlin mysteriously disappeared en route, and there are suspicions that the US government redirected them for its own purposes. I guess the United States DOESN’T SHARE FOOD PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT.

Could the US have done a better job addressing the pandemic? Well, at this juncture, it’s a moo point.

5. Italy – Rachel Green

Just like when a night of unexpected passion between Ross and Rachel resulted in a surprise (Emma), Italy’s unexpectedly close relationship with China may have resulted in a surprise spike in Covid 19 cases in the northern regions of Italy, which have a high number of Chinese workers. Where are those workers employed? Why, just like Rachel, they work in the fashion and textile industry. And it’s increasingly clear that China/Ross and Italy/Rachel have a pretty messed up relationship

6. New Zealand – Phoebe

Phoebe cares a lot. That’s why she’s a vegetarian and shops at flea markets. And that’s why she’s New Zealand, which has pursued a highly-praised policy of eliminating Covid 19 transmission completely within its borders. Plus, Prime Minister Jacinda Adern gave a very Phoebe-esque speech assuring children that the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are considered key workers and thus would not be affected by the lockdown. And she finished up by singing a song about a foul-smelling cat… Or so I’ve heard.

7. The World Health Organisation – Mr Heckles

No-one wants to engage with Mr Heckles, the crazy downstairs neighbour who keeps banging on the floor with a broom and shouting “Test for cases! Trace and isolate contacts! Use adequate personal protective equipment!”

Ugh, the WHO. Such a pain.

8. The Novel Coronavirus – Janice

Much like coronavirus, I’m pretty sure that Janice doesn’t have a surname.* They both seem to have the ability to pop up literally anywhere, no matter how much they’re not wanted. And once you’ve been involved with Covid 19, it seems like it’s pretty difficult to break up.

*Yes, yes, apparently it’s Hosenstein, who knew?

baby · Just for fun · parenting · Uncategorized

How I’m Staying Busy Without Having To Put Down The Baby

OMG being in lockdown can be boring! As I can’t take the baby out and about, I’m trying to keep busy even while he’s curled up in my lap. And a lot of the time, he refuses to chill out anywhere else. But what to do?

1. Learn A Language on Duolingo

Duolingo is a great app that lets you learn a new language or brush up on an existing one – for free! You can practice for a few minutes a day and set up reminders so you don’t forget. I’m trying to learn some basic Japanese, to help us when we’re in Japan visiting my husband’s Japanese family. And I’m also trying to remove the cobwebs from my dusty old German skills. It’s easy to fit in a few minutes when Little Man has a catnap.

2. Read and Drink Tea

For Christmas, my father in law bought me a subscription to the Tea and Book Club by Bookishly, kindly suggested by my husband on the quite logical basis that I love both tea and books. It’s great getting a classic book and delicious fancy tea through the letter box every month, and it’s a simple pleasure that can be enjoyed while baby is napping on me (because obviously napping in his basket would be ridiculous). Bookishly are still open for business during the pandemic, with appropriate social distancing measures in place, and I can highly recommend them.

In these times of quarantine, I should probably be trying to read books to improve my mind, but other than the Bookishly classics, I’m mainly reading a tonne of Agatha Christie, because I’m a sucker for a good murder mystery!

3. Bake

But you can’t bake without putting down the baby!” I hear you cry! Oh, but you can. Sometimes Little Man is happy to chill on his mat in the kitchen with me while I bake, but if he doesn’t want me to put him down, I just pop him in his baby carrier and carry on baking! I can’t really do anything involving the stove while he’s in his carrier, obviously, but all the mixing of cakes etc. can be done just fine. So far we have made banana bread, brownies, blueberry muffins and raisin and oatmeal cookies. His dad is gluten intolerant and can’t eat a lot of baked goods from the shops, so it’s nice to make gluten free versions at home!

Quarantine tip: a lot of baked goods can actually be frozen for later, if the batch you make turns out to be too big for your household. If they have a high fat content they usually freeze well.

Baby naps while mama bakes

4. Play Catan Universe


This is the app version of the board game Settlers of Catan. It’s not free, but there is an extensive trial version so you can try before you buy! It’s perfect if you have a baby, because you can play a game against the computer slowly over the course of a day and just put it down if he starts fussing and needs attention. I recommend, especially if you’ve enjoyed the board game version.

I should probably also give an honourable mention to my husband’s app game of choice, Football Manager, which he loves and which is on my ‘to try’ list!

I’m hoping at some point I might manage to fire up the PlayStation 4 and finally get around to completing The Witcher 3, but thus far I’ve not worked out how to do that with a baby in my lap…

5. Write this blog


I’ve really enjoyed starting this blog and again it’s given me something to do that I can easily pick up when Little Man is chill enough, and put down if he starts kicking off. I used to have a blog (Pituitary Ademoaner) about my health issues years ago, and it’s great to get back to writing again. This is a free site on WordPress, so if you’ve ever thought of starting a blog, why not?

6. Watch Netflix


I’m not made of stone, obviously all this mental activity is pretty exhausting and sometimes me and the Little Man just want to zonk out in front of the TV. I’m currently watching Gilmore Girls for the first time and loving it, but I’ve also watched a lot of Friends and Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Tiger King (obviously) and loads of nature documentaries.

baby · health · parenting · Uncategorized

Right-handed Baby vs. Left-handed Baby

So ever since Little Man arrived in the world, we have been wondering whether he’s going to be right-handed or left-handed. I’m right-handed, but there are lots of lefties in my family. And my husband is sort-of left-handed (he writes and eats with his left hand but uses his right hand for racquet sports in an ambidextrous sort of way).

I was initially convinced Little Man was a leftie-in-waiting, because at first it always seemed like he flailed around at us/hit his dad in the face with his left hand. Then, about two days after I’d mentioned this to my husband, he suddenly switched and started using his right hand more instead. Then he went into a phase of really switching from preferring one hand one day, and the other hand the next. So I started to wonder – at what age does our dominant hand become fixed?

So I started Googling, and found a stack of contradictory information. Some places say hand preference is set by 5 – 6 years. Others say it’s set by 18 months. This article, on the other hand, says that “Hand preference is the product of multifaceted developmental processes that begin before birth and expand during early infancy”, which quite frankly is not the kind of simplistic answer I was looking for.

Different babies apparently develop hand preference at different rates, which makes sense, because they develop everything else at different rates too. Something that is interesting from the article I linked is that apparently left-handed preference doesn’t develop as strongly as right-handed preference, and they think that this could be at least partly due to right-handed mothers unconsciously engage their children’s right hands more during play. So now, I’m going to  try to make a special effort not to specifically pass objects to one or other of Little Man’s hands, but let him choose for himself.

health · pituitary · Uncategorized

My Pituitary Gland Has A Great Sense Of Timing

So, I have a super rare tumor on my pituitary gland. It’s called a TSHoma or thyrotropinoma, because it produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). I’ve had surgery on it twice but we’ve never quite been able to get rid of it, there’s still a teeny stumpy bit left.

There’s actually technically no approved medical treatment for my condition, because it’s so rare, but for many years I was treated off-label with a medication called Somatuline, which is used for another kind of pituitary tumor and worked well for mine. However, when my husband and I decided we wanted to try for a baby, my endocrinologists suggested trying another medication, also off-label, usually used for yet another kind of pituitary tumor. It’s called cabergoline and they suggested trying it because it’s been used slightly more often in pregnancy compared to the other medication I was on. My doctors thought there was maybe a one in five or one in six chance that it would work to treat my tumor, so I was pretty pleased when it did.

Cabergoline stops you lactating, because it inhibits the production of prolactin by the pituitary. As I wanted to have a chance at breastfeeding, we agreed that I would stop taking the medication six weeks before my due date with Little Man, to give it a good chance to leave my system and allow me to produce breast milk before he arrived.

As it turned out, Little Man had his own plans. My waters went at 36 weeks and 5 days, and he arrived at 37 weeks exactly (just 2 and a half hours away from being technically premature!). Breastfeeding didn’t work out for us, but when I saw my endocrinologist a few weeks after the birth, I wasn’t having any symptoms from being off the medication, so we agreed I would stay off it for now. I was due to return in three months, and get in touch if my symptoms came back.

Well, now that coronavirus is here and I really don’t want to go to the hospital or GPs, my symptoms are back and I want to go back on my medication. It’s not terrible so far, just occasionally a fast heart rate, feeling a bit jittery, and the odd shooting pain in my neck (always the most unambiguous sign that my thyroid is doing something weird).

The hospital has introduced a great new telephone system where you can’t just phone a department directly, you have to go through a central switchboard. This is great because it means that you can wait on hold for ages to explain why you’re calling to the switchboard operator, who then explains that they can’t help you and will need to put you through to the department. Then you’re on hold again, which is brilliant because the hold music is not at all deeply irritating. Then either a) no one answers and the call just terminates, or b) someone answers and you get to explain why you’re calling again, so they can tell you that they’re not the right person to talk to and they’ll put you through to the relevant person. Then the relevant person isn’t in, so you’re told they’ll call you back. Then, when they don’t call you back, you get to start the whole process again.

It really is a genius of modern system design, because previously when I had to call the hospital, I sometimes only reached medium levels of furious hatred at their appalling administration, whereas now I reach maximum capacity every time.

So, last week I sent an email to my endocrinologist’s secretary, in a bid to avoid having to telephone hundreds of times until my soul is macerated completely and starts to run out of my nose. However, I have not heard back and my symptoms are only getting more noticeable, so I guess telephoning is now my only option. I can’t wait!

The pituitary gland is also known as the hypophysis. And that’s not just a hypothesis.

cocktails · coronavirus · food · Just for fun · recipes · Uncategorized

Lockdown Fun: The Quarantini Challenge

So lockdown is boring (have I mentioned that?), and we have to find ways to make it more fun. My awesome husband came up with the idea of inventing a cocktail with just ingredients we already have in the house (although, fair warning, we do have two shelves of booze in the pantry, so it’s not a particularly heavy restriction). Clearly this would be named… The Quarantini. And this is the Quarantini Challenge!

I suggested we should each separately come up with a recipe and swap. Originally we were both going to make our drinks on Sunday evening, but after Martin made his drinks, it rapidly became clear that having another cocktail each would result in a much higher level of inebriation than intended or appropriate for a Sunday night. So I made mine on Monday instead.

Read on for the recipes…

the quarantini challenge lockdown fun coronavirus covid 19 original recipe cocktail the sickly mama blog

Martin’s Quarantini: The Dirty Artini

Named after Dirty Arty, a video game character notorious for eating tinned peaches and leaving the cans behind (among other things). Martin went with the base of a classic Martini, and a quarantine twist straight from our cupboard of canned goods. His recipe:

  • 50ml gin (he used Roku gin, a Japanese brand)
  • 10ml Marsala wine
  • 10ml peach liqueur (or umeshu)
  • 15ml tinned peach juice

The above to be stirred over ice, strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a slice of tinned peach (lockdown bonus: you get to eat the rest of the tin afterwards).

My Quarantini: The Jumbletini

Named because it was made of a total mish-mash of random booze from the store cupboard, I proudly present my recipe for a quarantini:

  • 25ml spiced dark rum (I used Kraken rum, our favourite)
  • 25ml lemon gin (Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle)
  • 10ml pink grapefruit gin (from the Ely Gin Company)
  • 10ml umeshu (Japanese plum wine which I’m obsessed with, I used The Choya Single Year)
  • lemonade to taste
  • mint leaves from the garden

I smushed up the mint leaves (technical term) and served the above over ice in our favourite sparkley whiskey glasses.

The Quarantini Challenge: Who Won?

Obviously it pains me to admit it, but Martin’s quarantini was better! My cocktail was pretty nice actually, and I would drink it again, but Martin’s was delicious, plus you got to eat the boozey peach slice at the end, which was awesome. So yes: Martin won the Quarantini Challenge!

Have you made a quarantini? What was your recipe? I’d love to try other people’s store cupboard cocktails too!

More lockdown fun…

I’ve also written about my kitchen tips and tricks for lockdown, focusing around cooking and storage tips and ideas for stocking up during the Covid-19 pandemic. Why not check it out?

coronavirus · food · food storage · recipes · top tips · Uncategorized

Lockdown Larder: Kitchen Tips and Tricks for Food Shortages and Limited Shopping Trips

Hi guys! I thought today I would share some of my best lockdown larder tips for cooking and stocking your kitchen during the current coronavirus lockdown. My husband is the chef in our household, while I do the baking. As I’m on maternity leave though, I’ve done most of the organising of food shops and storage.

I’m currently sat in our living room with my three month old son, who is busy doing a poo. This is a rather involved process requiring a lot of concentration, so I guess we could be here a while. I might as well do something useful with the time…

Lockdown Larder: Kitchen Tips and Tricks

1. You Can Freeze Milk

I was surprised how many people don’t know this! But you can totally freeze fresh milk. My mum has been doing this for years to ensure the house never runs out. I currently have four spare bottles of milk in the freezer for the times when we can’t get hold of it at the supermarket. Obviously if you’re going to do this, be considerate – don’t buy up loads of milk at once, as that’s what leads to shortages. Buy a little extra and set it aside over several shopping trips. Also, fair warning: frozen milk does turn yellow, which looks slightly horrifying, but it goes white again when you defrost it.

Bonus tip: you can also freeze butter.

2. You can make bread without yeast.

I know a lot of places are experiencing shortages of baker’s yeast, but you can make delicious flatbread without yeast, such as Indian naan bread (click for the recipe) or, if you prefer something that’s a more traditional loaf, you can make Irish soda bread.

However, in actual fact you can make a lot more kinds of bread because…

3. You don’t need yeast to make yeast

You can make your own yeast with just flour and water, by capturing natural yeast from the air to make a sourdough starter. Once your sourdough starter is going, you can bake all kinds of yeasted breads and cakes from it. Plus, if you’re homeschooling kids, it makes for a great home science project!

Speaking of which…

4. You don’t need eggs (or flour) to make cake

Obviously a lot of cake recipes require egg, and there seem to be a lot of shortages of eggs at the moment. Local farm shops/veg box delivery companies are a good alternative source to the supermarket, if you live somewhere a bit more rural.

However, if you can’t get eggs there’s still plenty of easy bakes you can do without them (and if you have kids, they’ll enjoy making them too). Try making scones,* or flapjacks are a great bake if you can’t get hold of eggs or flour. You can even make meringue without egg whites. There are also lots of vegan recipes online that are egg free, so get a’googling!

5. Green lentils bulk out meat dishes

If you are trying to ration what’s in your freezer, but want to make dishes such as cottage pie or spaghetti bolognese (really anything involving minced meat), you can make your mince go further by bulking out with green lentils. Cook your ragu or sauce, add the lentils about fifteen minutes before the end, and your meal will go much further, still taste deliciously meaty, and actually be healthier as well. Triple win! Plus, kids will not notice that you’re secretly feeding them veg. Quadruple win?

6. Freeze freeze freeze

Obviously you want to be making best use of your freezer right now, and minimising the number of trips to the supermarket wherever possible. There’s a lot of stuff that you can’t just freeze – lots of fresh vegetables need blanching before freezing, which is a total pain. On the other hand, I hear that scurvy is worse.

If you’re lazy like me, you can straight-up freeze onions and peppers (chop them first) without blanching, which is handy for making fajitas and stir fries etc. Then put other veg in sauces, soups, ragu etc. which can be frozen once cooked and make for an easy ready meal for your future self.

…And that’s me pretty much done on the top tips front, so let’s finish up with a few wise words from Ryan Gosling.

Lockdown Larder: Your Top Tips

Do you have any lockdown larder tips for food storage or preservation? I’d love to hear your ideas! Let me know in the comments.

* The recipe I’ve linked to suggests using egg to glaze, but you can substitute milk, or just not bother glazing!

health · parenting · teething · Uncategorized

The Tooth Fairy vs. The Teething Demon

Older children who are gaining their adult teeth get visited by a lovely Tooth Fairy who pays them for their teeth (seriously though, what does she do with them?) and flutters away. But when babies are getting their teeth, who brings them? Pretty sure it’s the Teething Demon, who no-one has mentioned to me until now.

The Teething Demon Pays A Visit

In case that wasn’t enough of a clue, I can confirm that Little Man is teething. We’d wondered whether he was, as he has been dribbling like a pro footballer all week (it’s been very Messi) and quite fussy at feeds, especially towards the end when he’s been gnawing a bit on the bottle. Today we tried giving him his Matchstick Monkey teething toy to chew on, and he went absolutely popo loco, more or less trying to just bite the poor monkey’s head clean off (hence the Teething Demon…). I was super excited though, because he actually took hold of the monkey with his hands and put it in his mouth to chew, which is the first time he’s properly held anything other than mum and dad’s fingers.

I was surprised that he’s teething already, as he’s still not quite three months old and the NHS website says the average age for teething is six months. It doesn’t really seem fair, given that he’s not even over his colic yet and now we have another set of mystery pains to contend with! I do recommend the Matchstick Monkey (bought for him by his very proud grandma), and I’m going to see if we can get hold of some teething gel during the lockdown as well.

Interesting facts about teeth

I shall close this post with some interesting facts about teeth…

  • In Spanish and Hispanic cultures, instead of a Tooth Fairy, they have a Tooth Mouse! Sounds adorable, and definitely still better than a Teething Demon…
  • In the 10th century, there was a fashion for filing the teeth among Viking men.
  • In the Middle Ages it was believed that a witch could possess you if she obtained a part of your body, such as teeth, hair or fingernail clippings.

Enjoyed these interesting facts about teeth? Why not check out my post about the history of teething?

health · parenting · Uncategorized · vaccination

Vaccinations In A Time Of Coronavirus

Little Man was due his second set of vaccinations this week, so on Tuesday all three of us headed out to our GP’s office. We were a little worried about taking him to the surgery and the risk of coronavirus transmission, as we’ve all been very careful to stay at home as much as possible during the outbreak, but the illnesses he was being vaccinated against (including diphtheria*, tetanus, whooping cough and meningitis B) are just as nasty, or even nastier, than coronavirus. Diphtheria, for instance, has a death rate of up to 20% in the under-fives, and 5 – 10% overall even with treatment. It might be rare in the UK but there were still ten cases last year, and one death.

Vaccinations in a time of coronavirus

When I set up this blog on WordPress, I followed a number of other mummy bloggers more or less at random, to see what people were writing about and how families are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. I have subsequently already un-followed one blog that was pushing an anti-vaccination agenda. This included nonsense like claiming that it’s better for your child to catch measles so they develop immunity to it naturally, rather than through a vaccine. Of course, this rather misses the point that if your child dies from measles, they won’t get the chance to develop immunity either way.

Last year in Samoa, a measles outbreak killed 76 people, mostly children. Of the 1,249 measles cases in the US in the same year, 10% needed to be hospitalised. The average age of those hospitalised was just six years old. Even if your child survives measles, do you really want to run the risk of putting them through that when there is an effective vaccine?

I’ve never really understood the mindset of people who are anti-vaccine, but being a new mum and actively making the decision to vaccinate my child has got me thinking about it. Why do parents choose not to vaccinate? Maybe by trying to understand why parents refuse vaccinations, we can better address the issue and encourage a higher uptake of immunisations.

Why Do Parents Choose Not To Vaccinate?

It’s tough to watch your child have vaccinations

Firstly, I hadn’t appreciated how tough taking your baby to be vaccinated is. I thought I’d be fine with it – after all, Little Man was in intensive care for a while after he was born, and a couple of little injections should seem like nothing after watching him have a naso-gastric tube put in, various injections and blood tests etc. etc. But it was still tough! I had a little cry after I took him for his first immunisations. I think there’s a weird sense of guilt from the fact that I know what’s coming and he doesn’t – he’s being his usual happy self, in a room of new people and new things to look at, having some nice cuddles, and then bam! Someone sticks a needle in his leg, and he’s understandably upset. It’s not easy to see your child in pain, even very briefly, so maybe we need to acknowledge more that it can be difficult for parents, and provide more support and discussion of those feelings. Ultimately I was far more upset by the whole thing than Little Man ever was; once he had a cuddle he cheered up and was totally back to normal in about thirty seconds, probably wondering what his mum was looking so upset about.

Ideological reasons parents choose not to vaccinate

There are a lot of reasons why people choose not to vaccinate. Some religious groups refuse vaccines because of the way they are made, e.g. the use of animal gelatin. There’s also the fact that for those of us lucky enough to live in the developed world, there may simply be an impression that not being vaccinated isn’t much of a risk, because these diseases are now quite rare, or that the illness would easily be treatable if they did catch it. Ironically in that sense, vaccinations are a victim of their own success. These illnesses are only rare because we vaccinate and gain herd immunity. You have to wonder whether our experience with the coronavirus pandemic might help to change people’s perceptions on this one. There might not be a vaccine yet for COVID-19, but I’ll bet people will be queuing up to get it when there is.

Access to vaccinations

Finally, lack of education, lack of access to reliable information or access to healthcare are all potential issues. The anti-vaccination movement is big online and it can be daunting to wade through a deluge of online information about vaccines (including some heart-rending, but completely anecdotal stuff) to determine what is reliable and what is not. That makes it hard to make an informed decision.

Does the NHS do enough to encourage vaccination?

I received letters from the NHS reminding me to book my son’s vaccines, but it simply stated the type of vaccines he was due to receive, the timing of them, and a reminder to book the appointment. Given the concerns about falling rates of vaccination in the UK, this seems pretty surprising to me. Surely that letter is a golden opportunity to convince vaccine hesitant parents of the benefits of vaccinations? A few facts and figures would seem logical to include. After all, when I get a letter from the GP inviting me to have a smear test, it comes with a leaflet which aims to persuade me to have the test done. Given that vaccination benefits not just the individual child, but the whole population through herd immunity, should we not be putting a similar level of resource into encouraging childhood vaccination?

Little Man shortly after his 12 week vaccines

Your thoughts

What are your thoughts on why parents may refuse vaccination? Have you had any experiences which put you off seeking vaccination for your child? Let me know in the comments!

* I didn’t realise until writing this post that there are two h’s in diphtheria. I always thought it was dip-theria. You learn something new every day.

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Yoga: Your Quarantine Workout Friend

When you go on maternity leave, everyone really drums home the importance of getting out of the house and seeing people.

“Make sure you’re getting out,” said my mother.

“Are you getting out of the house much?” queried the health visitor.

And YES actually I totally was! Me and the Little Man had a great routine going, where we went for a nice walk every day between 2 – 3pm. That was on the days where we didn’t have other plans like meeting friends at a cafe or going to the children’s centre.

Then, along came coronavirus and blam! No more going out. We did try going for our government-permitted exercise walk once, headed away from town where we thought the roads would be quiet. It was nice, but people were not reliably maintaining the two-metre rule for social distancing, and it wasn’t really anyone’s fault as the pavements are narrow and the hedges overgrown, making it even narrower. As I have a bunch of health issues including reasonably bad asthma (which gets bad during hayfever season… Great timing this year!) and Little Man is not even three months old, we decided that walking is probably not a sensible form of daily exercise at the moment.

So instead, we’ve started doing a daily yoga practice after my lovely husband finishes work for the day. I’ve always enjoyed yoga but never done it regularly, and my husband is a late convert. My sister qualified as a yoga instructor last year (follow her on Instagram @sorchakra) and we did a family yoga session on Easter Sunday with my mum, dad and husband. It was so much fun, and we were hoping to do a repeat this year, but with coronavirus it’s not to be. However, we are really enjoying our daily practice and I’ve already noticed improvements in my flexibility. Plus, the mindful aspects of yoga are beneficial when you’re stuck inside during quarantine, which is enough to stress out even the most chilled amongst us.

We’re using free online videos by Yoga With Adriene, who is probably the most popular yogi on YouTube. There’s a huge variety of different videos of different lengths and with different focuses (e.g. yoga for back pain, yoga for weight loss etc) so we can keep it fresh and not get bored. If you’re struggling to get your exercise in during quarantine, I highly recommend her videos.

My other apocalypse workout tip is the Fitness Marshall, also on YouTube but definitely more of a guilty pleasure…