This time it started on New Year's Eve, with the regurgitation of the hot dog Charlie had enjoyed at lunch. Of course I blamed myself for feeding him a hot dog to begin with; they are a close enough cousin to Lunchables that their mating is, in fact, unlawful in 37 states. (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to guess which states might welcome the lovelorn lunchmeats, and to imagine what their unfortunate offspring might look like should they eventually succeed in slaking their unholy lust. Hints: below the Mason-Dixon Line, and I don't know, but I wouldn't want to meet it in a dark refrigerated supermarket case.)
Anyway, it started with a hot dog, and it all went downhill from there. By Sunday morning Charlie was not only vomiting but was made miserable by a high fever, and had a rash that alarmed me enough to call the doctor. Now, one day you may find yourself feeling the urge to call a pediatrician on a holiday. When that day comes, remember what I am about to tell you:
It's probably just a virus. If you're concerned, go to the emergency room.
There. I just saved you a phone call. Instead please use your valuable time to call Oscar Mayer and ask them what the fucking fuck they put in those hot dogs, anyway, as the tiny chunks I'd painstakingly cut at lunch were ejected entirely undigested almost eight hours later.
After the vomiting came the diarrhea. After the diarrhea came our 1,367th visit to the doctor's office. (According to the punch card in my wallet, if we go 23 more times this month, we get a free oil change. You can imagine how eagerly I'm looking forward to that.) After the visit came the deployment of the specimen cup. After the harvest — look, what would you call it? — came the mad flight across town to the hospital while the sample was still warm. And after the drop-off, several days after, in fact, came the verdict: Charlie has rotavirus.
Now, rotavirus is one of those bugs that afflict pretty much every child eventually: according to the Centers for Disease Control, most children in the U.S. will have some kind of rotavirus infection (for there are several varieties) by age 2. Those stricken initially have fever and vomiting with abdominal pain; as the vomiting tapers off, diarrhea then sets in, lasting from three to twelve days.
Worldwide, rotavirus kills upwards of 600,000 children annually, largely through dehydration that results from the vomiting and diarrhea. In the U.S., it's rarely fatal, but approximately 55,000 American kids are hospitalized each year from dehydration. Of course Charlie's doctor advised us to push Pedialyte, but that wasn't necessary; even the briefest of exposure to his diapers these days underscores the urgency of replacing that which is being lost.
Now, do you know how much Pedialyte costs? Here it's approximately $4.50 a liter. The only things I can think of right off the top of my head that are more expensive are Jo Malone perfume, printer ink, and scorpion venom, none of which I would suggest you drink, no matter how thirsty you feel. Since we'd capriciously blown the monthly budget on diapers, Desitin, and Dreft, Paul went looking for a recipe for homebrew.
one level teaspoon of salt
eight level teaspoons of sugar
one liter of clean drinking water
That's it. That's all Pedialyte is.
Wait, that's not precisely true. Among its medically useful ingredients, Pedialyte also contains sodium citrate, one of the components of citric acid, and potassium. If your child can keep food down without vomiting, as Charlie currently can, you can supplement your homebrew with some mashed banana at mealtimes; if not, you can add 1/2 c. orange juice to your homemade solution instead.
Mmmm. That's good rehydratin'.
The first batch tasted dreadful — or rather even more dreadful than it should — so Paul set out to augment it further, trying to recreate the insipid flavor of the single variety Charlie had finally deigned to drink (Gerber Liquilytes, fruit punch flavor, available here only in single-serving packets of powder, at a cost of approximately $7 per liter). After scanning the label of the Liquilytes package, he added:
1 packet unsweetened Kool-Aid, fruit punch flavor
...and offered it to Charlie.
He figured the Splenda supplied the Sucralose listed in the ingredients, and assumed the Kool-Aid would contain analogs close enough to the artificial flavors and assorted FD&Cs of the original to satisfy Charlie, who is, after all, a baby, and therefore kinda dumb — and who drank greedily of its blood-red depths.
Estimated cost per liter: $.25.
I consider it only a minor inconvenience that Paul's concoction turns Charlie's effluvia a bright shocking pink, leaving an indelible stain on everything it touches, including Charlie's skin. Hey, it's still diarrhea — only now it's cheerful diarrhea. I think it's absolutely worth it: the money we've saved on Pedialyte can buy an awful lot of my own preferred oral rehydration solution, after all.