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Your Child’s Life is Worth 60 Seconds (even if it’s a battle)

It never ceases to amaze me when a child pitches a fit about something that is truly a daily occurrence, sometimes multiple times a day.

In our house, events like this might include the horrible and almost-too-terrible-to-mention tasks of:

  • brushing teeth
  • going potty before a meal
  • washing hands after being outside/at school
  • bringing lunch boxes from the backpacks to the counter
  • getting hair done
  • getting dressed

Oh yes friends – we are mean and awful parents. We actually make our children, even the teeny tiny 2-year-old, do all these things! Every day! You’d think we were throwing them to the lions with the antics we sometimes get in return.

It’s really easy to be swayed by all the complaining sometimes. Really easy to think, “Eh, it won’t kill them to skip brushing their teeth this one morning. I don’t have the energy to be consistent today.”

Sure, we know in our heads that parenting success is all about consistency, but we’re human too. We just try not to throw ourselves on the floor and kick our feet while we’re avoiding responsibility. Winking smile

The story today is not my own, but it made my heart drop and my arm hair stand on end when my friend shared what was going on in their family a few months back. It’s something every parent needs to read – skim it, I don’t care – we all need this reminder that there are some situations where 100% consistency is truly necessary, that there are life-and-death consequences for certain shortcuts. (Missing brushing teeth every so often is not one of them, luckily for me!)

Risks of Turtles and Salmonella Symptoms in Kids

You may have already guessed the topic now that you’ve seen that picture, but you owe it to yourself to read at least a little more. You can’t know the magnitude of the situation until you’ve entered into one mom’s real experience, the confusion, fears, hopes, and hopes dashed…this is my friend’s story. All names are pseudonyms.

What I Did Over Christmas Vacation

Day 1, Sunday Dec 29–We returned from the overnight drive from my in-laws in NC on a Sunday morning. In church, Ben, age 3, asked to go to the bathroom twice, and I almost said no the second time. Good thing I took him; it was mild diarrhea.

I saw a friend’s son after church who said he was alone because his sisters were both sick, there was something going around their neighborhood.

That afternoon he had a fever of 102 and napped for 3 hours. When he awoke, feverish with more diarrhea. An hour later, more.

And so it continued, with a temperature teetering between 101 and 103 along with diarrhea at least every 2 hours. (This ended up being the case for 4 days straight)  He had no appetite as well.

Monday Dec 30— Fever down to 100, still almost continuous diarrhea, chills.

No appetite, kept down a few Cheerios and a little Pedialyte but it seemed difficult for him to eat or even drink. Husband and I are perplexed about source, because we just spent a week isolated on a mountain with Nana and Poppa (oh, and a room full of reptiles- seems so obvious now!) and couldn’t see how we were exposed to anything.

Other kids, age 5 and 7, are perfectly healthy, as are we. Late Monday, vomits.

Tuesday Dec 31– at 2 AM Ben had a massive bloody loose stool. I hadn’t ever seen this before with my other kids. I gave him Tylenol and took him back to bed.

When he had more blood in his stool at 7 AM, I showed my husband both diapers and we agreed we should take him in.

Vomits breakfast. Diarrhea after breakfast. Almost vomits snack consumed in car on 11-minute drive to urgent care.

The urgent care doctor didn’t seem to be concerned, said that bloody stool happens in ‘infectious colitis’ and it will take a few days to go away. That did reassure me, even though I tend to be a worrier.

“He looks good, not dehydrated. Keep him drinking, no solid food for 24 hours, he should be good as new in a few days.” 

I took the handout on childhood diarrhea,  along with an anti-nausea med prescription. Sounds normal enough so far. (Incidentally, I don’t fault the doctor, because at this point, his symptoms did match what was on the handout, and we were only  days into the illness.)

At home, husband is using his expensive medical-school brain to peruse information on conditions of the stomach and intestines in children. Separately and together, for the next few days, we comb through details on gastroenteritis, appendicitis, salmonella, colitis, Crohn’s, gluten sensitivity, food allergies, ulcers, we rack our brains over his diet on vacation.

I recalled that my cousin, a nurse, had cautioned me about reptiles around young children before. We asked Mary, age 7, if Ben had played with Nana’s turtle:


Did he wash his hands?


Husband calls his parents; they assure us that they change the water frequently.

(Important note! It doesn’t matter how well the animal is cared for. They just carry the disease, more likely than not, and since salmonella doesn’t harm reptiles, there is no reason for their bodies to get rid of it.)

Returning to the trusted-site salmonella info page, Husband notes that salmonella usually requires no treatment and clears itself within 5 to 7 days, so even if it were salmonella, we shouldn’t need to worry. (Usually. There are different kinds of salmonella, and the one associated with reptiles can rapidly mutate, making it more difficult for the host to fight off. I found this out later on microbe-wiki…)

We keep pushing the Pedialyte and follow Dr.’s orders on diet. A little vomiting, temperatures going up and down, a lot of diarrhea, but no more blood. I can only get him to drink a few sips at a time, and even that seems uncomfortable for him.

You Don’t Actually Have to Lick a Turtle to Get Salmonella


(photo source: Michael Law via Stock Exchange)

Day 4, Wednesday Jan 1st- Happy New Year?? Um, no. Boy is miserable. My couch-jumping tumble monkey is a too-warm blob who does nothing but sleep, poop, almost sleep, almost poop, vomit, or almost vomit.

Clings to me constantly.

Like having a newborn, except a healthy newborn brings joy, not just anxiety.

He doesn’t have the strength to sit up or hold his own sippy, and vomits his lunch. Continuing, remember, since Sunday, the pattern of diarrhea at a minimum of every 2 hours, usually more.

I pray for my kids every day, mostly in a shameful, “But of course they are doing great, and thank you God for that fact that I so take for granted,” kind of way.

But today, I really prayed for Ben. Like, please don’t let this be something really serious, please just let me find out that I am an unreasonable worry-wart.

Day 5, Thursday, Jan 2—  (This is the freakiest day to me, and the one that threw a wrench in my thought processes.)  The regular doctor’s office is open, and…

…at noon, instantly, my Ben is back!  He eats, he drinks, he plays, he’s tired and has a little diarrhea, but is able to wear underwear again.

But he eats, drinks, and plays! For three-quarters of a day! He has a little dinner, goes to bed early, and then. . ..

Day 6, Friday, Jan 3 – Back downhill, as much diarrhea as ever. No appetite, refusing apple juice; I force it on him, sips at a time.

Temperature is ok. What do we do? Is this something different or a recurrence of the same illness? If it weren’t for yesterday, we would take him right in. Since he doesn’t have a fever and actually did drink enough yesterday, we wait and try to keep him comfortable and resting.

Day 7, Sat Jan 4– Not better. We cancel gift exchange with my side of the family. When we talk to the doc on call, she says keep him hydrated and take to ER if he gets worse.

I start texting my siblings, their spouses, my dad, asking all for prayers.

Day 8, Sunday, Jan 5– I stay home from church, trying to get some fluids in Ben. (We really couldn’t have kept up with the amount that was coming out, and that’s where the danger comes in.)

Not much success, though diarrhea is a little better, possibly because there just isn’t much left in him. When Husband returns and we check his fever after nap at 103.7, we pack a bag for the emergency room.

They are there for 7 hours, getting IV fluids, blood draws, symptom records. Ben was so weak he didn’t even flinch at the IV insertion.

The SNOWSTORM starts, work is closed the next day, my pastor cancels the service for Theophany, a major feast, the next day, which he has never done. ER sends directions to get a stool sample and follow up with our family doc the next day.

Day 9, Mon Jan 6– Shovel snow, continue trying to keep Ben hydrated.

We have an afternoon doctor appointment – they tell us the hospital had tried to catch me on the phone with lab results, and called his regular doctor when they couldn’t reach my (misplaced) cell phone.

Had he played with a turtle recently?

Sigh of relief-horror-relief, we know what it is, and it’s treatable.

So, back to the ER, and they might admit him.

Salmon Ella, Unwelcome Visitor

Day 9 continued – at the ER with Mommy — I knew from medical websites that he would have to be given strong antibiotics. I know how some people have alternative health views, and differing opinions on antibiotics. I’m not the crunchiest one in the bunch, but I myself have had times when I hated doctors, questioned their decisions, deferred seeking treatment if i thought it safe to do so, etc.

Oh, and that whole giving birth to my second child at home because I don’t like hospitals. However, in this case, I was very pro-antibiotic. I’m sure that’s not a word. I wanted to scream, “What the hell is taking so long, just give him an IV and start pumping the stuff in! Help him not evacuate every ounce of fluid from his bowels!”

They drew blood to run more labs and gave him fluids too. The boy was, again, so weak that he could barely whimper when they poked him. He didn’t like it, but I think that besides being powerless to fight it, he knew on some level that Mommy would only let them do it if it was going to help him. I had explained that the water and medicine would help him feel better.

Five hours later, Ben had finished his IV antibiotics, kept down some crackers and juice, and only had two trips to the potty.  This would also be the last time we saw a fever in him for this illness. We were given a prescription for at-home oral can’t-buy-this-stuff-everywhere-because-it’s-almost-never-prescribed gastric atomic bomb antibiotic.

On our short drive home, the temperature dropped 5 degrees. 17 below! Not my favorite night for running around the city.

Day 10, Tuesday, January 7– Happy Old Calendar Orthodox Christmas! I gave myself a shower. Yes! We have something to celebrate!

No fever, willing and able to eat and drink, some quiet, calm playtime.

Tired, and still one instance of diarrhea in the morning, but okay, and he took the Gritty Human Body Bleach without complaint. Chased by Pixie Sticks, of course. Winking smile

We settled down for a nap after lunch (you know, where you sit down and ingest things, and they stay there? amazing!)  and. . .ring ring. .. . They want us to come back into the ER because there are complications that can arise from salmonella, and given the amount of time it’s been in his system, his kidneys and liver, etc, should be checked.

Of course I want them checked, but couldn’t they have kept us overnight to avoid dragging a very sick child out in now 31 below zero wind-chill? Oh, and they might admit him. So husband comes home from work, and we spend our would-be naptime driving and checking into the hospital.

At least the bag was still packed from the night before.

They let him stay in his pajamas this time, so he would feel like he had something of his own for comfort. A nurse read him a story while I updated the doctor on his good morning. She explained what they would be checking for, and that we shouldn’t be long if the labs come back ok, given his improvement.

Boy was a zombie and desperately needed to nap, but a hospital is not the place to try to sleep! (That was one benefit of going home for the night.) They put on a cartoon movie for him while they drew blood and put a heart monitor on. He had developed a heart murmur, which the doc said was benign but a sign that his body was working very hard to fight the infection, and should return to normal after recovery.

Labs are clean, we are sent home to collapse after I call my pastor and ask him to bring me Holy Communion at home the next day. My human strength, which all comes from God anyway, ran out a long time ago.

Days 11-13, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday–Diarrhea changes: only one or two per day, not mucous-laden. I think I forgot to say that at first; the stools tend to be very slimy, mucous-y with salmonella, but unless you are looking for it or are in the habit of comparing different kinds of diarrhea, it might not stand out for you.

Our priest steps over the pile of toys in our living room to pray over him and give him holy water.

He continues to start eating more, drinking tons, sleeping quite a bit; checkup goes well on Thursday.

On Friday, Ben hits his big brother (a thing to celebrate when your child has been that sick), a friend brings us dessert, and the world seems a kinder place.

Though I could sleep for a week, given the chance.

On Saturday, he has a normal bowel movement, eats an adult serving of the chicken dinner I make, and sleeps 13 hours. Which brings us to today:

Sunday, Day 15– I keep him home with me to watch church over the internet while feeding him the whole time. Another normal BM. My cousins come over for brunch and would never have guessed how sick he had been.

They all talk and laugh over espresso and biscuits and gravy, and I allow them to play soccer with Ben in our dining room amidst the antique piano and breakables.

I think we’re all right now. Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee. Thank You.

(The end)

If you’re not tearing up, moms and dads…phew. That story is so hard for me to read, just scary. When you think of the times you missed washing your child’s hands after being outside, sometimes because you just get distracted and the child grabs a carrot from the table and…I always think we’re strong enough to handle a few germs and dirt (and we are!) but it’s so important to have this knowledge, this story, in your toolbox. Because sometimes, our bodies can’t fight it.

Here are the Cliff’s notes if you need to evaluate a child’s diarrhea illness:

Symptoms Summary: Warning Signs of Salmonella in Young Children

  1. Vomiting/ diarrhea combination, with alarming frequency for one or other or both. If it’s not getting less frequent as time passes, tell your doctor.
  2. Bloody/slimy/mucous stools
  3. Abdominal pain. This was nearly constant.
  4. Persistent or recurring fever.
  5. Lethargy, a sign of dehydration, but even when hydrated, the child may not be interested in normal activity.
  6. Loss of appetite.

These symptoms are shared by many tummy bugs in children, at least early on – so stay on guard and evaluate the sliminess of and mucous in the stool if you’re concerned.

Salmonella can also be contracted via raw meat or contaminated eggs, and although my friend misunderstood that it could be fatal, it isn’t very often, at least in the United States. (That makes the whole story all the more horrific though, knowing the mom-on-the-Internet had discovered a fatal symptom!)

The type from reptiles, Typhimurium, is more likely to require hospitalization than the kind from eggs or chicken, and the fatality rate for that is higher, though still low.

The Real Foodie Friend’s Response

A bowl with Miessence Probiotic Superfoods

I tend to think “probiotics” whenever a friend has a round of strong antibiotics or any other gut-related issue. I’ve been a bit of a “probiotics fairy” if you will, sprinkling around the fruit of my labor here at KS, a wonderful bonus of this mission/ministry/business I have.

This story makes number seven, at least – she told me that her little one had salmonella and I was so surprised, wondering if it was contagious to the rest of the family, and I sort of joked via email, “Unless he licked a turtle?”

I was a bit ignorant and a lot curious about how he had gotten something so nasty.

She responded:

My brother heard “salmonella” and told me to cook my chicken. I told him to cook his turtles before giving them to children to play with.

It’s the kind that comes from contact with reptiles, of which my mother-in-law has a whole menagerie. Everyone else is fine; children under age 5 are just much more susceptible. He’s finally eating again, drinking really well, and containing what he consumes. I am tremendously grateful just to have him alive, as it was progressing for at least 10 days before the cause was known and is often fatal in the very young. (It looks almost exactly like classic childhood diarrhea to begin with, and is very rare so might not be on a doctor’s radar right away. Stomach bugs are some of the toughest to diagnose.)

She later learned that the fatality statistic she had read was incorrect, but truly – how terrifying. No more joking from me – I went right to being the health fairy:

Would you like me to send some really good probiotics over for him? He will probably need something to support his gut flora after being wiped out by the antibiotics.

They’re powdered, so you’d have to mix it with applesauce or in a smoothie to get him to take it. Hubby and I just mix some in water or juice and take it down – Ben might be able to do it with juice; just depends on his tolerance for gritty juice. Would you be interested in giving it a try/do you think he’d manage to get it down? It’s all I can do to help!

I also wondered if she wanted to share the story with you all, because I felt like it was really an important tale to be told. Her generous spirit was more than willing:

Thank you for your offer of the probiotics. The boy’s intestines have taken quite a beating. If the cost of shipping isn’t prohibitive, let’s give it a try! probably not?)

I would be very happy to help anyone avoid what we went through, so I am working on a draft of the timeline of his symptoms and treatment…

The Happy Ending

John Hamming it up in the Snow

I thought it would be appropriate share a happy family photo here for the happy ending, but of course it’s an anonymous story, so that wouldn’t work very well. Photos were pretty tough for this entire post – what do you want to see while reading about sick kids and diarrhea? So this is my son, not much younger than the Ben in the story, hamming it up. In vibrant health. Just the way we all want our kids to be.

It’s an “insert your child here” photograph, really. Insert your child in the whole story just to scare yourself, and hopefully your family will never have to live it.

I heard from my friend recently about how “Ben” is doing now, unsolicited:

I don’t remember if I told you, but I noticed a difference in Ben’s “results” soon after starting the probiotics. He still asks for his ‘medicine juice’ every morning, and the websites said it can take months for the gut to fully recover. Thanks again!

Joy to my heart! I’m just so glad and relieved that the probiotics helped, and it’s probably time to mail another tub her way.

Our family has found good things in a tub or bottle of probiotics – every human being needs to have a proper balance in their gut of the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” Or else.

Or else what? The bad guys will take over, and then you are ill.

There are many good brands of probiotics and great ways to get them via food, as well, but for those in gut-compromised situations, I really think a supplement is the way to rebuild fastest. (Plus, it can’t be denied that taking a supplement once a day is easier than making homemade kimchi, water kefir, or kombucha.)

If you want to really dig in and learn about the human microbiome, our relationship with bacteria, and the scientific basis for probiotcs and how this one is made very conscientiously, you can listen in on a free teleseminar on April 9th at 2p EST. It will likely last about an hour and includes time for Q&A at the end. Register here:

Who are you going to pass this information on to? Sharing the gift of good health, our Monday Mission for this week, may include passing on information to help catch a serious problem sooner, rather than later! I’m grateful I heard the story…

Risks of Turtles and Salmonella Symptoms in Kids

Other Natural Health Posts:

Disclosure: The Miessence “store” is mine and I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. But it will often to put to good use as the probiotics fairy! See my full disclosure statement here.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.
Category: Natural Health

35 thoughts on “Your Child’s Life is Worth 60 Seconds (even if it’s a battle)”

  1. I also tried to comment on Lacey’s giveaway but was unable to do so. I’m going to follow your advice to Julianne and enter but leave the comment here, too. 🙂

  2. I tried to leave a comment on the probiotic giveaway page, and it looks like the ability to leave a comment has been removed. All of the comments there are from April 9, which may be why there is a problem and why her entries are so low. 🙂 I sent her an email, but she is not responding to any email until April 22, I believe, due to staying away from the computer and email during most of the month of April…so I don’t know how to add a comment on that page. There was nothing to click on, nothing to type into – nothing I could see to add a comment and fulfill that part of the giveaway. 🙁 Have you figured something out, about how to add a comment? If so, I’d appreciate knowing how to do that. Thanks!

    1. Hi Julianne,

      We’re sorry for the inconvenience!! Katie has a note in to Lacey as well, and please go ahead and confirm that entry on the giveaway. This comment here will count as your entry, Katie will make sure of it.

      1. I had the same problem, and am hoping the same works for me! I’ll leave this comment and go ahead and enter.

  3. I wanted to thank you for this post! I appreciate that you took the time to post this. I know pretty much everyone would opt for antibiotics at this point (I would!!), but I am not sure every real food blogger would go out of their way to make a post giving the heads up about it. You always keep things very reasonable and balanced, and it’s what has kept me reading and recommending your blog to lots of people!

  4. My friend’s son just had a bout (albeit relatively mild compared with the story above) with salmonella. Costco called my friend because she had bought freeze-dried strawberries there to let her know they were potentially contaminated. That is what scares me. A lot of people know about turtles or eggs or chicken, but strawberries?!?!

    1. Oh, man! So true Christi – we just got a call from Costco about some peanut butter we bought that has a listeria recall – but seriously, it was a refrigerated product and I bet I bought it last fall! Clearly we ate it all and can’t bring it back in…but at least I don’t think we got sick from it!

  5. so very scary..Thank God its into the benefits and uses of activated charcoal, and collidol silver to help in times of bacteria or virus. They can often lessen the symptoms and help the body to recover faster..just brainstorming:)

  6. My little four year old played with a turtle just last week. And she’s a thumb sucker too, so I’m always trying to keep her hands out of her mouth. It’s so hard. I didn’t know this at all about reptiles. I’m glad I read it. My parents also keep chickens, so I know what to watch for now. Thanks for this. I am also interested in the probiotics and how they could be affordable enough for my whole family to take.

      1. Katie,

        I would also love to know what probiotics you use that are affordable for the whole family. We’re a family of 6 and we have used 2 different brands on the kids and one for me (it helps my splenic flexure syndrome pain), but the price is killing us …

  7. I had salmonella poisoning when I was pregnant with my daughter, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone! I lost 16lbs in 4 days, I remember feeling and thinking I was going to die! I can’t even imagine one of my little ones getting it. Thank God this baby is ok!

  8. Thanks for sharing! First I wanted to say I am about as anti antibiotic as a parent can get. I have refused them even when my daughter had an ear infection for over a week. But that is because we overuse them for things like mild upper respiratory infections, which makes them less effective when they are really, truly needed. And this was OBVIOUSLY one of those cases! I would never ever wish that antibiotics didn’t exist. They are quite literally the difference between life and death for so many people every year. We just need to get over using them for every little illness so they can retain their effectiveness for when sweet little boys with rampant bowel infections need them!

    And I can relate, kind of, to the circumstances. My kids, as well as my Sister In Law’s then 6 month old, all contracted e. coli from some contaminated water (long story…). While it was nowhere near as serious as her son’s salmonella, it was still scary, especially regarding the baby (my kids were 3 and 5, and they kicked it pretty fast).

    Again, thanks for sharing! I did actually know that reptiles were a salmonella risk, but only because I worked at a child care and it was in our policies to disallow reptiles in the center because of the risk. Hopefully this story will teach other parents to be careful!

  9. I just read that chickens also commonly carry salmonella. Even healthy backyard chickens, whose eggs are not infected, can have the bacteria on their bodies, like reptiles. So if your children handle your chickens, please have them wash their hands.

  10. Thank you for posting this- it all seems like a bad dream now! I spoke to a public health nurse on our case, and she said that because 1.)Toddlers through 3-yr olds touch their faces more often and 2.) the immune system of a child under 5 is not as adept at fighting things off, they are more likely to have a problem. Even if you have your child wash his/her hands AFTERWARD, where are their hands going during the playtime? And salmonella can live on surfaces for DAYS. The worst carriers are turtles less than 4 inches in diameter, which are illegal to sell in many states.

    Skin crawl alert: The bacteria, of which there are many types, “ruffle” the lining of the intestines, and it can take months to fully recover from that alone, plus the antibiotic blast. . . .

    Thanks again, probiotic fairy!

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