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What’s your family’s illness curse?

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#1 Kylie Orr

Posted 21 April 2016 - 12:12 PM

I’m a firm believer that every family has their ‘curse’ : the illness that plagues them but seems to bypass other families.

Ours is gastro.

The first year we experienced full blown gastro, my eldest child was nine months old. He was not a vomit-y kind of baby so when he spewed his own body weight it was somewhat unexpected. Given he smiled afterwards, I didn’t think too much of it. Maybe his tummy was full and he didn’t need that extra feed?

Come midnight, we’d changed him seven times. Not long after, my own gut gurglings began. I sat in the shower with the water washing away a constant stream of vomit. It was a stomach workout like I’d never known. When the tsunami of nausea had passed, my body felt like a soggy chip. I could barely support my own weight, let alone lift a baby. Then it was my husband’s turn. He chose to stay on the toilet. The entire night.

Now we have four children, the idea of gastro is close to my worst nightmare. When gastro hits the Orr household (usually every year at Easter), we go into lockdown. It spreads like wildfire, no matter how much hand washing and antibacterial everything we have in our house. Trying to catch vomit with a bucket from the top bunk at 3am is an extreme sport. One I can gladly do without competing in.

Strangely, I’ve met families who have never experienced the joys of gastro. NEVER? Who are these super beings?

Instead, their children have colds, runny noses or ear infections monthly. Just as they knock one screaming ear infection over, the next one comes barrelling through. Although babies and young children are more likely to get ear infections because they have narrower tubes connecting the middle ear to the throat, I can count on one hand the number of ear infections my children have suffered.

An obvious explanation is that certain bugs, like gastroenteritis and common colds, are highly contagious therefore very easily spread between siblings and family members.  

But is there more to it? Cast iron constitutions, a powerful immunity, genetic makeup, dumb luck – what is it that makes some of us prone and some immune?

Associate Professor Sharon Goldfeld, paediatrician at The Royal Children's Hospital's Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH), says it can be all of the above.

“There are complex factors at play when we talk about viral transfer, not simply one thing we can put our finger on. Infections spread based on a combination of coincidence, timing, how children and adults interact with their environment and their exposure to germs.”

Dr Brett Sutton is a Melbourne-based public health doctor, with three children aged 11 months, 3 and 5. He says, “the most likely factors contributing to families having a higher burden of common viral illnesses are kids' age (the younger the more) and daycare attendance. Children in daycare tend to have more infections than children in home care, although this tends to stabilise or even become less than for those in home care as they get to pre-school age [because] they've already had their share!”

Professor Goldfeld adds that the way children play and the habits they form can impact their likelihood to catch contagious bugs. For example, at childcare, some children may intermingle in a more physical way, while others who play in a more isolated manner may never bring certain illnesses home. In addition, “whether children do or don’t wash their hands thoroughly, if they suck their thumbs or bite their nails, these are all factors that influence the spread of infection.”

What about genetics? Do some families have a stronger make up than others?

Dr Sutton says “genetics and the immune system won't play a big role for most families, but may for a small proportion, such as those with very pre-term bubs.”

Dr Catherine Murray has been looking after the health of families as a GP for over 15 years. She also has four children. She says, “While I’m not aware of any study looking into family predisposition to particular illnesses, anecdotally as a GP, I do find there are families who present more often with gastroenteritis or recurrent otitis media (ear infections) than others.”

We are one of those families and I’d love to know how we can prevent recurrent gastro in our house. Dr Sutton says, “Hand washing with soap and excluding sick kids from daycare will have the strongest preventive role, but it's hard to prevent much.”

Perhaps the answer is to don a Michael Jackson-esque mask and stop the contagion in its tracks? Excuse me while I moonwalk to the sink and wash my hands.

For more information on gastroenteritis, refer to this fact sheet from The Royal Children’s Hospital. Or come to my house at Easter.

For information on ear infections, see here.

Does your family seem to fall victim to some illnesses but not others?


Edited by Kylie Orr, 26 April 2016 - 12:54 PM.

#2 Genabee

Posted 21 April 2016 - 12:32 PM

Chest infections and sinus infections. Every year. Starts as the common cold and over night it escalates into full blown infection of the chest or sinus, requiring antibiotics. Drives me spare.

We don't seem to get gastro, tonsillitis or ear infections though...

#3 Tinkle Splashes

Posted 21 April 2016 - 12:35 PM

We don't have one.  Never had any gastro in the family.  A few colds, no flu.

#4 Mistletoe Kisses

Posted 21 April 2016 - 12:40 PM

Para-Influenza C

It causes croup and bronchiolitis in babies and pneumonia in adults.

We've all had swabs done multiple times and it seems we all catch it atleast twice a year.

#5 NannyPlumPudding

Posted 21 April 2016 - 12:46 PM

It used to be ear infections until my eldest had his tonsils out.

Now my youngest gets tonsillitis with the exact same symptoms but no ear infection.

But *touch wood* only one major case of gastro in 5 years. Even if gastro is going through work/daycare they havent caught the spews (they have had diarrhea for under 24hrs).

#6 DJandJ

Posted 21 April 2016 - 12:53 PM

We are your go-to family for head lice 😳

#7 Kylie Orr

Posted 21 April 2016 - 02:00 PM

Head lice. That's a whole other shade of hell, isn't it?

Para-Influenza C - wow, that sounds terrible! As do chest and sinus infections and tonsillitis.

I'm still in awe of the family that has never had gastro.

#8 Natttmumm

Posted 21 April 2016 - 02:05 PM

Gastro has hit all of us (minus the  one child who never gets it)several times. Its hell!!

Our illness seems to be any thing ENT - ears (one child), Nose issues (the other child) and throat and tonsils (the third child).

One of each - oh the joys!!

#9 ginmag

Posted 21 April 2016 - 02:12 PM

No gastro or ear infections - 3 kids, all went to daycare.

Ours is the flu each winter, and one child will then get a chest infection without fail (pre-disposed due to asthma!).

We were the go to family for head lice, but a trip to salon offering specific lice removal services knocked that one clean over!

#10 Velvetta

Posted 21 April 2016 - 02:20 PM

There's a whole run of auto immune diseases on the paternal side.
Nothing much on my side. I never get colds, flu or gastro or lice or anything..

#11 PhillipaCrawford

Posted 21 April 2016 - 02:27 PM

Sorry disgustingly healthy here - occasional bouts of gastro every couple of years or so and then a few colds.

#12 lurfest

Posted 21 April 2016 - 02:28 PM

We're a gastro family. We always keep maxalon and zofran on hand!

Cruelly, we are a one bathroom (toilet in bathroom) house.

#13 Lazycow

Posted 21 April 2016 - 02:31 PM

We're a non Gastro house, in fact we not really a illness house. Thankfully also a lice free house.

DS1,  DD1 and DD2  very rarely get ill, maybe a cold once a year.

DS2 is prone to tonsillitis.

DH suffers from rhinitis at least twice a year which in turn ends up a massive chest infection and he will be down for a week.

I get ear infections quite often, usually involves loss of hearing in the infected ear, the last one I had lasted almost 2 weeks. Fun times

#14 Kbubbles

Posted 21 April 2016 - 02:31 PM

On my side there is Leukaemia, PCOS and tonsillitis.

DH's side there is Bowel Cancer, Breast Cancer and Ovarian Cancer. The men also tend to get a lot of those cysts you see people either squeezing the bejesus out of, or cutting open.

#15 lazycritter

Posted 21 April 2016 - 02:33 PM

View PostSultan Splashes, on 21 April 2016 - 12:35 PM, said:

We don't have one.  Never had any gastro in the family.  A few colds, no flu.

You should not have said that out loud...


#16 Lucrezia Bauble

Posted 21 April 2016 - 03:00 PM

we get the normal course of colds, coughs - gastro has indeed featured.

but one very annoying feature - recently experienced with my 4 yr old - and it made me recall that we also had it with my 9 year old at that age (since grown out of it) - is this random travel vomiting illness. It's not motion sickness I don't think - as it strikes at least 4, 5 hours after we have actually stopped being in motion (either in plane, or car). It's isn't food poisoning - because again, it's not immediate - and we've usually had the same food. it doesn't behave exactly like a gastro bug either - no diarrhoea ....but without fail, every trip we do - THE FIRST night in the hotel  - no appetite for dinner, vomit throughout the night, vomit some of the morning, no appetite but otherwise well - then - puff - its gone. weird. it will have to feature in our future travel agendas

- arrive - unpack
- swim
- dinner for most of us
- get bucket and wipes ready
- deal with vomit
- stay in for bit of morning dealing with vomit
- assume vomiting stopped by mid afternoon
- resume holiday

#17 Tinkle Splashes

Posted 21 April 2016 - 03:00 PM

View Postlazycritterisferal, on 21 April 2016 - 02:33 PM, said:

You should not have said that out loud...



#18 Expelliarmus

Posted 21 April 2016 - 04:17 PM

We've never had an illness sweep through the whole family. :shrug: A couple might get a nasty cold, one kid had an ear infection once ... that's it really. Never had gastro just one or two vomits here and there for a one person only kind of deal.

We like to go for your broken bone and soft tissue injuries I think!

#19 PooksLikeChristmas

Posted 21 April 2016 - 04:36 PM

I feel like even reading this thread has jinxed me.

Ah! Ah! *tries to wipe curse off clothing*

#20 marple

Posted 21 April 2016 - 04:59 PM

Only once have we had the gastro sweep through the family thing. I was a single mum at the time with 3 vomiting children. We stayed in my room and took turns bolting to the bathroom. Wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy but we laugh about it now.

Knock on wood never had gastro again.

#21 Baroness Bubbles

Posted 21 April 2016 - 08:47 PM

Constant ear infections for me (got so bad I've had surgery, am waiting for more and also have hearing aids).

Dd has massive reactions to mozzie bits and develops cellulitis at least once a year

#22 lazycritter

Posted 25 April 2016 - 11:53 PM

View PostSultan Splashes, on 21 April 2016 - 03:00 PM, said:


Oh no!

#23 PooksLikeChristmas

Posted 26 April 2016 - 04:35 AM

We got totally mozzed into a family head cold, by the way.

Thanks. Thanks a lot :lol:

#24 F.E.B.E

Posted 26 April 2016 - 10:17 AM


but one very annoying feature - recently experienced with my 4 yr old - and it made me recall that we also had it with my 9 year old at that age (since grown out of it) - is this random travel vomiting illness. It's not motion sickness I don't think - as it strikes at least 4, 5 hours after we have actually stopped being in motion (either in plane, or car).

That happened to me once as a child., After we had stopped and set up for a night. In a tent.

#25 Kylie Orr

Posted 26 April 2016 - 01:11 PM

View PostShamelesslyPooks, on 26 April 2016 - 04:35 AM, said:

We got totally mozzed into a family head cold, by the way.

Thanks. Thanks a lot :lol:

Sorry! They are very contagious. You can even catch one just by reading an article! Watch out for gastro, it'll be next!

Edited by Kylie Orr, 26 April 2016 - 02:00 PM.

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