Medical School Mythbusters: The One about Peds in the Summer


Pediatrics is known to be a very germy rotation. Somehow, those irresistibly adorable mini hands and feet are gateways to cesspools swirling with bacteria and viruses just itching to make a home in your nice, warm, moist oral mucosa. In a lot of ways, Pixar said it best:

However, they say that the brunt of the force can be avoided if you are lucky enough to complete this clerkship during the summer.  After all, most illnesses are not as prevalent during the summer, and there’s no school to facilitate germ swaps. I was assured that most of the patients I’d be seeing would have asthma or broken bones… ailments that are not contagious.

And let’s be serious: I’m a terrible sick person (read: incessantly whiny, yet still insistant on carrying out all of my daily activities) and I really don’t care to have my education mottled by nasty GI symptoms. So at the end of the day, I was grateful to be assigned to Peds for July/August.

The Experiment

I spent my first week of clerkship in the pediatric emergency department, spending 8 hours a day each weekday seeing patients since last Wednesday. Sure, I saw my fair share of crooked arms and motor vehicle accidents. But no asthma, and plenty of stomach bugs, fevers of unknown origins, and Coxsackievirus with its skin rash and throat lesions and vomiting. But I carried out my physical exams and then drowned my hands in Purell every single time, sometimes more than once. Surely, these viruses would be no match for my decades-old trained immune system AND obsessive-compulsive handwashing, right?


The Evidence:

Woke up yesterday with a mild sore throat. Shrugged it off. Probably just dry; it’s hard to stay hydrated when you’re on your feet all day running in and out of the various rooms in the ED.

But when I got home, I had that hot-and-sweaty-but-cold, all-over-achy feeling. And my throat felt like tiny evil pixies with daggers were stabbing it with every single swallow, regardless of my combination dose of 800 mg ibuprofen and 625 mg tylenol. Not to mention, it looked like this:

Tonsils are absolutely NOT supposed to look like this.

Yes, I did photograph my own tonsils. Is anyone actually surprised?

Between my inability to hydrate (swallowing legitimately brought tears to my eyes for a while), fever, sleepless night, and blatant need for a rapid strep test, I moved my final ED shift to this weekend and spent my day resting and seeing my own doctor (though realistically I could have written my own history and I’d basically done my own physical…). And, because I couldn’t resist, studying. No amount of gross goopy whiteness in my throat can knock the medical student out of me (a friend had to argue with me before I agreed to ask for the day off).

Regardless, one thing is clear: completing your pediatrics clerkship in the summer absolutely DOES NOT save you from the small child plague. Even if you only see bike accidents and dog bites, those tiny sticky hands and smile-inducing mini shoes and snot-dripping noses will hunt you down and attack every time.


Actual blog post to come when I’m feeling more myself. Although I kind of like the concept of medical school mythbusters. Anyone have another one they’d like me to tackle? Let me know!



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