This article first appeared at Wesleyan Kids on January 11, 2014

My body encountered a strain of strep that it had never seen before and it knocked me down for a week prior to Christmas. Ten days of Penicillin later I was feeling mostly better, with a twinge of an earache.

About a week later, it all came back with a vengeance! In Hayward, all the clinics are closed on Saturday, so the only option for medical intervention is the ER.


An abscess on my tonsil that I needed to have drained. Wonderful. The Hayward ER could not drain the abscess, so I had to go to Duluth (an hour and a half away), to get this abscess drained by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist. Boy was that painful!

The ENT doctor was fantastic.

He informed me that what I had was the number one killer of people in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the 1900s. In fact, our first U.S. president, George Washington, died of the very ailment I had. Comforting. After assurance that I would not be dying of this condition, I asked the doctor how I obtained this wonderful abscess.

The ENT specialist told me that my body had probably never seen this type of step before and I was most likely run down (He was right on the run down part).

Once he realized that I worked with kids on a regular basis, the ENT doctor gave me some tips on prevention:

  1. The best thing anyone can do to prevent regular infections is to get a good nights sleep and eat well. Doing these things are more important than even exercise (although exercise is not to be ignored for other problems).
  2. At the end of the day, especially during the germ season, take off the clothes you worked with kids in, throw them in the wash, and take a shower. This gets rid of all the germs you have from all those little precious wonders that you don’t want making a home in your body 🙂
  3. Most germs live on surfaces. The best thing anyone working with kids can do is to make sure that the surfaces are cleaned at the end of every day. The ENT doctor said that the worst thing on an airplane is not the recirculated air that everyone on the flight breathes, but rather the surfaces on the plane that never get cleaned! Boy, start thinking of all those surfaces in one’s world that don’t get cleaned: shopping cart handles, remote controls, steering wheels, public door handles, etc.
  4. Wash your hands. Regularly washing your hands with soap and water, especially before you eat, is one of the best practices of those who want to stay healthy.

I am not a medical specialist, so please take these second-hand-shared ideas as tips and suggestions for how to prevent the spread of the seasonal sicknesses. I am also not a germ-o-phobe. I’ve been known to take a drink out of one of my students pop cans or chew my daughter’s gum (much to her delight!), but this ENT’s suggestions and the infection I contracted made me think more carefully about how I practice and enact healthy safeguards in my life.

photo credit: Martha Dominguez on Unsplash