Google Diagnosis

3:48 PM Posted by Natalie

Okay, so I know it's not always wise to Google as a means of medical self-diagnosis. Indeed, only medical professionals should do the diagnosing, although even they can get it wrong. And our untrained minds can concoct all sorts of scary things based on some common symptoms. But when you have a nagging question, it can be hard to wait for a doctor to figure out what's going on, especially when it concerns one of your children. And so began my Google search a few years ago for the key to Alec's bizarre problem....

Looking back, it all began somewhere around 18 months - 2 years. It's hard to pinpoint exactly because I didn't know at the time that it meant anything, but I know the first time it happened was before he was 2. What happened? Well, I thought it was a stomach bug. But it was a wierd one, for sure. He woke up feeling sick and miserable and threw up. I don't recall if it was once or more than once that first time, but it was over by lunchtime and he was fine the rest of the day. I'd never known a stomach bug like that, but whatever. But, then it happened again. And then again. It was always the same, not a typical stomach virus, and no one else had been sick. Eventually I got the hint that something was going on here, but I had no idea what.

It was so wierd. I had never known of any such thing. There were times when it was happening almost on a monthly basis. Shaun and I kept wracking our brains trying to figure out what might connect each of the episodes. What preceded them? What might have been the same? But we weren't connecting the dots. So yeah, I started Googling. I wanted anything, any idea that I might be able to bring to our pediatrician to try to figure this out. The only thing I could find that fit was a condition called Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, or CVS. I printed out the information and took it to our pediatrician at Alec's check up. He agreed that it was a possibility, but CVS is a diagnosis of exclusion and requires many tests. He didn't seem very concerned and everything else was going fine, so we left without any real answers or plan. This was a few years ago.

Alec's episodes became less frequent and as I continued to research, I became skeptical that what he had was actually CVS. Some things just didn't apply to him and what he went through when he had an episode. But one thing that helped me investigate this was that episodes of CVS often had some kind of trigger, something that always preceded them. As we tried to identify what Alec's trigger might be, at some point, Shaun and I finally realized that there was something that seemed to connect after all. Episodes of recent memory all came after Alec refusing to eat his dinner, usually because it was something he didn't want to eat. Well, you know that a discipline tactic (one that I normally agree with, by the way) is that if kids don't eat what you fix, then they don't eat. They won't starve, they will eventually eat, as Dr. Phil teaches us. Unfortunately for us, hunger seemed to be the most likely connection between these episodes and so we determined that we would not let him go to bed without eating a good dinner, and probably a snack, too, and frankly I didn't care what it was. Alec has rarely had episodes since then.

But I wasn't satisfied yet. So, I kept searching. And a little while back, I do believe I found what Alec most likely has, something called Ketotic Hypoglycemia. It is a form of childhood hypoglycemia that becomes evident at 18 months - 5 years. Check. Episodes nearly always occur in the morning after an overnight fast, usually longer than normal, such as when they skip dinner. Check. Symptoms include lethargy, malaise, abdominal discomfort, nausea, and sometimes progresses to vomiting. Check, check check, check, and check! The first episode is usually attributed to illness, with further episodes occuring over the next few years and becoming immediately recognizable by the parents. Check. In mild episodes, carbohydrates and a few hours of sleep will be enough to end the symptoms. Check. It often occurs in children of a slender build. Check.

Once Alec has landed in the ER and had to stay overnight, but that was right after he had a bout of the stomach flu. Stomach flu will usually trigger an episode and make it difficult to get under control because so little stays in their system. This past December, we went to Urgent Care when once again he had a stomach bug and we couldn't get things under control, which was very illuminating because they tested his blood sugar while we were there. It was only 41, and 40 is considered hypoglycemic. We narrowly escaped another trip to the ER. Luckily Gatorade brought his blood sugar up enough that the doctor was satisfied and let us go home. He was fine after that.

What brought all this to mind? Well, while we were in Florida, Alec had an episode. It was that Friday morning after we got there and when I got up, he was curled up on the chair complaining that his stomach hurt. I knew. I tried getting some breakfast in him thinking maybe we'd beat it before he got sick. I left with my mother-in-law, Joey, and Lauren to go to a garage sale and when we got back, Alec was in the pool. He said he'd thrown up and now he was fine. He had eaten fine the night before, but he had been in the pool ALL day, so I figured that he had probably just spent more energy than he had taken in with food. After that, he was fine, and we were more careful about making sure he snacked throughout the day when he was swimming.

I might mention it again at his check-up next month, but really, I'm not sure if it makes a difference if we have him tested for hypoglycemia or not. With the particular kind I think he has, the treatment is basically just to make sure they have regular meals and snacks high in carbohydrates, particularly in the evening, which is what we do. It is usually outgrown by the time the child is 8 - 10 years old. But it would be kinda cool to know if my Google Diagnosis is correct ;)


  1. cbdkndmom said...

    Never doubt Mommy Gut Nat. After reading your post, I think you are right on the money. Here's hoping it goes away on the low end of that age spectrum.

  2. worriedmom said...

    Your son sounds just like my daughter. She is 8 now and has had episodes of vomiting and complaining of her stomach hurting. She will say her stomach hurts, vomit and then rest awhile and feel better. Also there are times when she says her stomach hurts, vomits, becomes sweaty, limp like a rag doll, her blood glucose is usually around 33. Once we get sugar in her she starts to feel better, but it will take a good 1/2 to a whole day before she is back to feeling herself. Her episodes are almost always mid morning. I just wish I could get a diagnosis, we went to an EP and yes she has hypoglycemic episodes but we were told to watch her diet and that was it. But last Sunday she had a very severe episode and since doing some research I think she has alot of the Ketotic symptoms.