First off, I do need to say that the question was a bit "off". I wouldn't say my family has "pretty poor health". Its just that my life is more public than most. Eczema is far from rare, and Ike's was a very mild form, in one 3 inch square section of his body- in his diaper area- that most people probably would have not noticed or bothered treating.
My kids have bad teeth. Not so common but not sooo rare either.
And I am gluten sensitive, and I'm pretty sure my kids are too. Gluten sensitivity is certainly not rare now- some suspect that up to 90% of the population is sensitive to gluten in some way or another. But even if it isn't as common as that, stomach issues (often gluten related) are quite common among people of my genetic ancestry, so my being sensitive to gluten isn't so odd.
And eczema and bad teeth are very often connected to gluten sensitivity. So its not that my family has "poor health in general". My family is gluten sensitive.
And, my 3 kids were hospitalized at 3-4 months old.
So, why is that?
First of all, I have to say that I have no proof of anything I'm saying, its all just my theories and trying to make sense of the situation, so bear with me.
When Lee, my oldest, was hospitalized with breathing issues, I thought I just had bad luck. But when my younger son, Ike, was hospitalized with the same virus at the same age, I tried figuring it out. What was the cause of both of them being hospitalized with breathing issues?
My theory was that their breathing issues were caused by us living right near a quarry; everyone was breathing in lots of dust all the time, which put a strain on their lungs. (Many, many, many kids from my old street were hospitalized with breathing issues. A disproportionately large amount.)
Well, we moved from that apartment to our current one, and moved further from the quarry. Of course, just our luck- immediately after we moved in, they started excavating the mountain a few hundred feet from our home, so they could build a whole new housing project. We moved from one dust filled area to another, which means we didn't eliminate that problem, unfortunately, which could definitely have contributed to all my babies having breathing issues at that age.
Gluten and Dairy?
I know I am very sensitive to gluten and dairy. When I have just the tiniest bit of gluten, I get a whole bunch of different immune reactions. Every single time I've been sick in the past year was after getting accidental gluten exposure. I am pretty sure that when I eat gluten, my immune system is run down and makes me much more likely to have a hard time fighting off any other bug I may be exposed to.
When Ike and Lee were babies, I was eating a lot of gluten and dairy, which, if they're gluten sensitive like I am, could have weakened their immune systems through the constant exposure, making them more susceptible to illness.
Now I'm off gluten and dairy, but I bet you wouldn't be surprised to know that I accidentally got "glutened" just a bit before Anneliese ended up going to the hospital. Maybe her immune system was run down because of that accidental gluten exposure, which led to her catching the illness?
I wasn't eating a particularly healthy diet when Lee got sick as a baby, and I was eating a far from ideal diet when Ike got sick as a baby. My diet has since improved tremendously, but would you be surprised to hear that my diet the week before Anneliese got sick was very bad? I cheated on lots of stuff that I shouldn't have, namely lots and lots of white sugar, and didn't eat the most varied diet (severe understatement). I know white sugar can weaken your immune system- maybe it was because of the spike of white sugar in my diet that week that led to her getting sick? (I know I felt pretty sick myself which made me swear off sugar the day before she ended up getting sick.)
Poor Gut Health?
According to Dr Natasha Campbell McBride, author of the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome (aka GAPS), most of the ailments today- physical, mental, and emotional- can be traced to poor gut health. When your gut is unhealthy, your body gets filled with all sorts of toxins which cause all sorts of problems in the body, including all sorts of autoimmune issues, including Celiac disease. She says that even "official" autoimmune diseases like Celiac, which are usually "lifelong" can be cured with her specific diet, called the GAPS diet.
According to Dr Campbell McBride, poor gut health, if untreated, gets passed on to your children, via the birth canal. (And the father's poor gut flora can be passed on to the mother's "birth canal" and onto future children via... uhm... you know.) So basically, if either I or my husband have poor gut health, our children most likely have poor gut health already from birth, and since poor gut health causes health problems, it would make my children more likely to have health problems. And, for the record, both my parents have gut problems.
Well, where does poor gut health come from?
All sorts of ways, but diets high in unhealthy foods like white sugar and white flour, and artificial additives can cause bad gut health, as well as antibiotics or other medication such as the birth control pill.
Where did I likely get my poor gut health from?
Well, probably passed on from my parents from birth. On top of that, growing up our diet was somewhat like the standard American diet (only a drop less junk food). On top of that, my father the doctor is a huge believer in antibiotics any time. Antibiotics for him are like candy. Ok, slight exaggeration there, but I've been on antibiotics more times in my life than I could count- probably at least a few times a year until I was first married. That certainly messed with my gut flora. (And if you were wondering where my parents got theirs from, probably from over-medication and an unhealthy diet.)
(For the record, I took the pill for a grand total of one month. I've read it can affect your gut as well, but I'm not sure if one month was enough for that.)
I really need to do more research on this, but I know vitamin D is vital for proper health, that your immune system needs a high amount of vitamin D to work properly, even higher than doctors typically recommend. According to Dr Mercola, your ideal vitamin D level should be no lower than 50 NG/ML, and according to standard alopathic medicine it shouldn't be lower than 30. Mine is 5.89, severely, severely deficient. I don't know what it is that is causing me to be so, so, so vitamin D deficient, and I don't know if vitamin D gets passed through breastmilk, but if it does and I am that deficient, perhaps I'm not giving enough vitamin D via my breastmilk so that my kids are also severely vitamin D deficient, which effects their immune system function.
My kids have their own bedroom, but usually its all 5 of us piled into one large bed. Great way for any bacteria to get passed back and forth. A few days before Anneliese got sick, Ike got a mild virus, and shortly after that, Anneliese caught it. Sleeping near each other surely makes it easy for the germs to spread that way.
Why Three Months?
I find it odd that all my kids were sick at the exact same age. I have been trying to find out if there is something "magical" about the age three months that makes them more susceptible to illness then, and I haven't found anything conclusive. One person told me that at that age, mothers milk stops being enough to fully protect them, and their own immune system needs to start taking "full control", which makes the baby weaker then. I don't know if this is true at all, but its what someone told me.
Another person mentioned that at this age, there is a growth spurt, which also makes them a little weaker. Again, I don't know if that's true.
I'll be honest, it could just be that I'm a bit too much of an alarmist. Lee was hospitalized at 3.5 months old with RSV, and he was in really bad condition, so much so that I was afraid he'd die. (Probably an exaggeration, but I was that worried.) He was limp, floppy like a rag doll, not breathing well at all. I was working as a babysitter at the time, and I left in the middle of my work day because I felt I couldn't wait any longer to bring him to the doctor (don't worry- I found a replacement to watch the kids), and his oxygen levels were in the 70s- dangerously low. Immediately he was sent by ambulance to the hospital, receiving oxygen the whole while, and for the entire hospital stay he was getting steroids and oxygen therapy.
When Ike started breathing funny at the same age, because of my experience with Lee, I went to the doctor who didn't think anything was really a problem... but a few hours later, my mommy instinct (or maybe alarmist instinct?) kicked in, and I took him to a different doctor- the only one open in the evening- who suspected something, sent me to the ER (not via ambulance this time) and they also weren't sure if they saw anything, but a chest x-ray confirmed pneumonia. He was hospitalized, got oxygen and a little steroids, and eventually we came home. When Ike was sick, it wasn't nearly as bad as it had been with Lee, but I was so worried that the same thing would happen with him that I took "preemptive measures", I guess you can say.
Anneliese was another story entirely. She was breathing funny. We came to the hospital by ambulance only because there were no buses running and I had no other way to get her to the hospital, not because she was in as dire a situation as Lee had been. Her oxygen was borderline low- I remember the machine saying 85, but the hospital papers record her oxygen at having been at 90. She didn't get IV fluids in the end, because she finally agreed to nurse.
What Anneliese finally was hospitalized for was because in the "routine ER checks" they discovered that she had a UTI. She hadn't really had any UTI symptoms- no unexplained high fever or anything. If she hadn't had a cough and wasn't wheezing, I likely never would have known she had a UTI. And if I did, she probably would have taken oral antibiotics instead of IV antibiotics.
At the hospital, the only treatment she got was IV antibiotics. No oxygen. No steroids. Nothing was done for her breathing, other than monitoring to make sure her oxygen saturation levels didn't get too low.
In other words, the hospital didn't do much for her, and in many ways, I think she didn't need to be hospitalized.
In fact, all the doctors remarked that she looked like "the healthiest kid in the ward", she didn't look like a sick little baby, and they even put her in isolation at first so that the other kids wouldn't pass on their germs to her, because for the most part, she was fine. I would have "fought" and not had her admitted once I saw her oxygen levels were fine, but again, I was wary of them getting social services involved for "refusal to give proper care" because they'd already pegged me as the natural hippy dippy type and my country has a history of causing problems in hospitals for people like me...
Basically, I think because I've had 2 kids hospitalized in the past, I'm more likely to start freaking out and thinking "Oh no, maybe my kid needs to go to the hospital" even when its something borderline that others would just ride out at home. Making my kids not be sicker, but just me being more of an alarmist.
What its not:
Some stupid nurse in the ward told me that "Its because you don't vaccinate your kids that your kids all ended up in the hospital." Right. What a load of rubbish. Because A) I don't "not vaccinate my kids"- I delay vaxing, and only started doing that AFTER Ike got his first vaccine. Lee was fully vaccinated on schedule when he was hospitalized. (And was the sickest.) Ike was partially vaccinated when hospitalized. (And was the second sickest.) And Anneliese is the only one who hasn't gotten vaccinated yet, and she was the healthiest of them all.
And B) not only that, if my kids were hospitalized for measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, polio, hepatitis, tetanus, diptheria, etc... maybe. But kids aren't vaccinated for UTIs or bronchitis, so even if my kids HAD all been fully up to date on their vaccinations, it would have made no difference, because my kids weren't sick with anything that would have been vaccinated against.
So, what am I going to do to try and prevent this from happening again?
First off, I'm going to be even more careful about gluten contamination.
Secondlly, I am strongly, strongly, strongly considering doing the GAPS diet, both for myself and my kids.
Thirdly, the construction project is just about finished, so hopefully, hopefully we'll be done with being subjected to air pollution.
Fourthly, we're ALL taking vitamin D supplements to try to get our vitamin D levels where they should be.