“It was the root beer,” I thought, with that familiar “Ding! Ding! Ding!” that accompanies many of my revelations. It was most certainly the homemade root beer I’d packed with pride in my fifth-grader's lunch a few weeks ago.
The root beer apparently became something of a valued commodity that fateful lunch hour. This fact was reported to me by my daughter, and became very apparent about three weeks later. The SIGG vessel was passed from one child, to another, to another: each sip savored, each swallow enjoyed, each and every germ spread. Sweet as the root beer was, it came with a bitter bite.
A student in your child’s class has been diagnosed with MONONUCLEOSIS
Yes, it was my child who made the above headline. That would be the same child who so generously shared her root beer with half of the fifth grade. Mono, incidentally, is spread through the sharing of saliva.
If your classroom is anything like my child’s the last few weeks, the health alerts are coming across email faster than the breaking news ticker on CNN. The alerts aren’t all run-of-the-mill strep throats either. They are eyebrow-raising horrors like influenza, and our very own root-beer flavored mono. It seems that the extended winter we were subjected to this year is being accompanied by an extended and enhanced season of illness.
During a casual chat with a friend of mine who happens to be a pediatrician, I learned that this time of year is notorious for lots of nasty bugs. Immune systems are worn down, hand-washing drills are relaxed, and we are all still penned up indoors. During that chat I also learned that except for teenagers (who tend to share lots of saliva with each other), the student population most likely to come down with mono is 5-6 year-olds. My own pediatrician told us that without a fever, mono is not contagious. . . unless the infected person licks you. That explains a lot about a teenager’s and a kindergartener’s propensity to spreading the virus.
Hmmmm. . . the similarities between kindergarteners and teenagers. . . sounds like an interesting blog for another day.
In the meantime, take my advice: leave the homemade root beer at home. Remind your young ones to wash their hands often, and ask them to refrain from licking anyone.
In the above post, I use the term “homemade” loosely. One can create a root beer-flavored syrup at home easily using store-bought root beer extract. Carbonation can be achieved by purchasing either dry ice or a $200 contraption from a kitchen store. Here is a link to a recipe:
If you happen to have a PhD in Chemistry, or love someone who does, you could create your own extract. Here is a link to get started: