And he’s not sick. He’s just feeling a little hoarse.
Advice from the May 2014 issue of Wellness and Swellness.
A SHOT IN THE ARM
Yes, Your Kid Really Does Need All Those Shots She’s Scheduled for in Her First Year. We’ll Tell You What She’s Getting and Why Each One is Vital to Her Health
This past January, there was an outbreak of measles in San Diego. The culprit? An unvaccinated child who’d recently traveled to Switzerland. Why? We may never know. But the highly contagious respiratory disease, which can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death, quickly spread to 11 other children. In 2013, four states reported outbreaks of whooping cough, another highly infectious disease that’s potentially deadly for infants. It came from Norway. And around the same time, Maine and Eastern Canada were experiencing a sudden increase in mumps, a painful virus that can cause hearing loss and which originates in Moroccans and camels, hence the name.
What’s going on here? Didn’t we beat these diseases decades ago? Well yes, but these infections can be just one plane ride away, which is why we have to keep vaccinating our kids against illnesses that foreign countries haven’t been able to cure because they lack the expertise, the funding, or the basics of hygiene. And if you think that vaccinations don’t work or they’re just a scam invented by the very same pharmaceutical giants who invented the diseases in the first place, remind yourself that innovation is what made America great and is one of the main reasons why so few of us ever have to go abroad to begin with.
WHAT SHE’LL GET
The array of vaccinations your baby will receive may seem dizzying. Most parents don’t know what CFD even stands for, let alone why President Obama had to bomb it. And your baby requires several doses of some vaccines, which is why there are so many shots. Here’s what’s on the schedule:
Carboniferens Fibrodysplasia: In some parts of southern Spain, children’s bones and muscles are slowly turning to coal. This makes them popular with other kids in the playground because they can set light to their fingertips and exude a noxious oil that makes dogs vomit. But it is also highly contagious, and we don’t want our kids smelling like Spaniards. This inoculation comes in the form of a lump of sugar inserted rectally.
Hissy Fits: For a long time, doctors thought hissy fits were just a sign that a child was being spoiled at home. We now know that it comes from Italians and is passed onto humans by consuming the undercooked pasta illegally used as a bulking agent in some European baby formulas. While not lethal in themselves, hissy fits can lead to parents inadvertently throwing their children into the canal or under a bus, an unforeseaable but statistically significant outcome that renders this vaccination invaluable for those parents who quite like their offspring.
Second-Head Syndrome: Again, not in itself deadly, but liable to result in ostracism, which is appropriate, because it comes from Austria. The child does not actually grow a second head; rather, she becomes convinced that she has a second head, usually somewhere on her back. If you hear your daughter talking to herself, it’s a guaranteed sign that she has SHS. This is an inoperable condition, and pretending to remove her second head will likely result in trauma, resentment, and parricide. The vaccination takes the form of injections in both noses—real and imagined—for no other reason than badness.
Bigfoot: A highly contagious rumour from Canada. Not lethal, but it can lead to further complications such as Ufology, Ickeitis, and, in boys, Conspiracy Nuts. Vaccination takes the form of a kick up the arse.
Gehry’s Disease: Another one from Spain, this time from the north of the country. Symptoms include arching of the spine, skin turning silvery and scaly, and limbs pointing out at weird angles. Then people begin to stare and take photos and want to go inside. Cases of Gehry’s disease have already been spotted in California. Vaccinations take the form of a cerebral infusion of good taste.
Autism: The MMR vaccine is no guarantee your kid will get autism. You should have drunk mercury while you were pregnant.
Falling off Bikes: Like hissy fits, this was also thought to be a developmental problem and that kids would simply learn to ride their bike once they were able to find their centre of balance. It transpires that it was the Germans all the time. Vaccination takes the form of fire bombing their cities.
Obesity: We continue to vaccinate against obesity, but frankly the chances are that if you’re child is raised in America, she’s going to catch it. Vaccination takes the form of two Snickers bars and a packet of Oreo cookies per day for the next 15 years.
Paranoia: This originates in Russia, but it already has a foothold here. Not to be confused with Adolescent Insecurity, which is just a self-esteem issue, paranoia is caused by a germ that doctors secretly inject into your child while they’re giving her all the other vaccinations. You can ask your doctor not to give your child Paranoia, and he’ll say that he hasn’t, but he’s lying, the same way he lied to your parents. The best thing you can do is not to take your child anywhere near the doctor. Ever. And that applies to hospitals and the police too. All you need is your Bible. That will cure everything, I swear. Trust me. I’m a doctor.
“Backstage” at Animal Hospital
When we discovered that the theme tune to the TV quiz show Mastermind is called “Approaching Menace” (by Neil Richardson), we thought two things: (1) That’s no way to talk about John Humphrys, and (2) How many other theme tunes are selected on the basis of their title? As it turns out, quite a few:
The theme tune to Channel Four’s How Clean Is Your House? is Dvořák’s “March of the Fecal Matter.”
The theme tune to Coronation Street is “Grimm, Up North,” by Burt Bacharach
The theme tune to Blockbusters is “Suspekt Unkle,” by the Fall
The theme tune to University Challenge is Gustav Holst’s “Ode to Smugness”
The theme tune to Deal or No Deal is “Casino of Cardigans,” by Franz Ferdinand
The theme tune to The Apprentice is “(You’re Not) the Boss of Me,” by Lil’ Kim
The theme tune to The Antiques Roadshow is “Plunder!,” by the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band
The theme tune to Animal Hospital is “Misplaced Pity Boogie-Woogie,” by Jools Holland
The theme tune to How to Look Good Naked is “Sad Hand Shandy,” by Blur
The theme tune to Doctor Who is “Return of the Repressed,” by Captain Beefheart
The theme tune to Countdown is “Siesta,” by Moby
The theme tune to Top Gear is “Fat Lad Manifesto,” by the Nightingales
The theme tune to Property Ladder is “Brick Lust,” by Pulp
The theme tune to Fawlty Towers is “The Four Seasons Pathétique,” by Vivaldi
The theme tune to A Question of Sport is “Triumph of the Will,” by Skrewdriver
The theme tune to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is “Death by Questions,” by Ludovico Einaudi
The theme tune to Househunters in the Sun is “Escape from the NHS,” by Underworld
The theme tune to Autumnwatch is “Fanfare for the Common Shrew,” by The Future Sound of London
The theme tune to The O.C. is “California Reaming,” by Green Day
the theme tune to Question Time is “Empty Stage,” by Fleetwood Mac.
In rather feeble attempts to demonstrate their erudition and unsuccessfully prove that they have a sense of humour, members of the medical profession have in recent years been generating articles for publication in which they diagnose the purported symptoms exhibited by the protagonists of well-known works of fiction. Thus, in the American Journal of Diseases of Children, D. W. Lewis argues that Tiny Tim from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol exhibits all the signs of Distal renal tubular acidosis (Type 1); in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Claude Cyr argues that Tintin shows symptoms of hormone deficiency, hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, and repeated head trauma; and in the British Medical Journal, Professor Gareth Williams concludes that Squirrel Nutkin suffered from Tourette’s.
At the same time, there has been a veritable explosion of novels featuring protagonists with illnesses or diseases hitherto considered exotic or rare. The protagonist of Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is autistic, Clare Morrall’s central character in Astonishing Splashes of Colour suffers from synesthesia, Lionel Essrog in Jonatham Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn has Tourette’s, Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s novels has Asperger’s syndrome, and it seems like every detective and every cop in every book and TV program is either terminally ill, already dead, hard of hearing or an awkward patronising twat. Sometimes all of the above (yes, Morse, you).
In an effort to stem the flow of this truly appalling, exploitative, unimaginative and smug sub-literary effluence, we feel it our duty to point out to any prospective authors or poets intending to embark on any similar such venture that all the diseases known to humanity have already been covered by far better writers than you. So STOP IT! NOW! (Here’s the evidence)
Agoraphobia: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
Claustrophobia: The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore
Kleptomania: Rob Roy, by Walter Scott
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: The Constant Gardener, by John le Carré
Voyeurism: King Lear, by William Shakespeare
Exhibitionism: Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
Clinical Depression: Doctor No, by Ian Fleming
Anorexia: Skinny Dip, by Carl Hiaasen
Multiple Personality Disorder: Dubliners, by James Joyce
Stuttering: Emma, by Jane Austen
Bipolar Disorder: To the Ends of the Earth, by William Golding
Nymphomania: The Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley
Satyriasis: Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie
Dwarfism: Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Hypochondria: The Iliad, by Homer
Priapism: The Bone People, by Keri Hulme
Bubonic Plague: All’s Well That Ends Well, by William Shakespeare
Down Syndrome: The Ugly Duckling, by Hans Christian Andersen
Echolalia: The History of Mister Polly, by H. G. Wells
Necrophilia: The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
Catatonia: Permanent Midnight, by Jerry Stahl
Narcissistic Personality Disorder: The Dandy annual
Vertigo: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
Coprophilia: The House at Pooh Corner, by A. A. Milne
Male Erectile Dysfunction: The Shape of Things to Come, by H. G. Wells
Halitosis: “The Lady of Shalott,” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Swine Flu: Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
Peyronie’s disease: The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James:
Syndactyly: Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White
Haemorrhoids: The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
Macular Degeneration: Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler
Incontinence: Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Priapism (again): Hard Times, by Charles Dickens
Leprosy: Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
Gonorrhea: Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens
Self-Harming: Rip van Winkle, by Washington Irving
Necrotizing Fasciitis: Hitler, My Part In His Downfall, by Spike Milligan
Cystitis: Inferno, by Dante Alighieri
Obesity: The Life of Pi, by Yann Martell
and of course
Bulimia: Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
If I’ve missed any, do let me know. Ta.