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The good of golden hamsters

City: So what are you reading right now?

Random 9-year-old: Freddy in Peril, which I am near finishing.

City: What is that book about?

9-year-old: It is about a golden hamster that knows how to read and write.

City: So it's a true story?

9-year-old: No.

City: No?

9-year-old: No, a golden hamster learns to read and write in the first book and in the second book he's trying to escape Professor Fleischkopf who says that hamsters are capable of reading and writing if certain nerves are connected in their brains. He dissected hamsters' brains while they're still alive.

City: How did Freddy feel about this?

9-year-old: He was scared. Fortunately, he escaped. He got his head shaved by Professor Fleischkopf right here [motions down the center of his scalp] and Enrico and Caruso, Freddy's friends, made pretend bald spots and put them on their head. Enrico and Caruso made fun of him a little.

City: There's a first book?

9-year-old:I, Freddy. It's about the hamster Freddy learning to read and write.

City: Why does he want to read and write?

9-year-old: I don't know. I haven't read it in a long time.

City: I thought you read it only two months ago.

9-year-old: Yes, but that's a long time ago. He wants to learn to read and write for the good of golden hamsters.

City: A hamster dipped in gold?

9-year-old: Noooo, it isn't. It's a type of hamster. As you can see in the picture, his hair has a kind of golden color.

City: Who wrote the books?

9-year-old: Dietlof Reiche. He knows how to write a good story.

City: Would you recommend these books to someone else?

9-year-old: Um-hm. It's a funny book. Kids who like animals and silly animals would like the book.

--- Craig Brownlie

Fever facts

Fevers cause worry. Parental anxiety about fever stems from both the altered appearance of their febrile child and the mythology of this mis-information age. Parents falsely fear a fever will get high enough to cause seizures and brain damage, believing it must be controlled to keep their child safe.

Fevers are really a natural way of fighting infection, triggered by our immune systems. Our white blood cells release chemicals (pyrogens) that raise our brain's thermostat. Our body temperature then rises, slowing the growth of bacteria and viruses, speeding up our immune response, and making us tired, conserving energy. There is good evidence that fevers help us get better. Fever's not a disease. It's a sign that we are combating infection.

Fevers can't get high enough to hurt us. Our bodies make chemicals (cryogens) that lower our temperatures when they get too high. Heat stroke (brain damage from high temperature) results from hot environments, not fever. Children can have frightening seizures with fever but they don't cause brain damage and can't be prevented by medication. Fever-reducing medicines (ibuprofen and acetaminophen) are safe only at the right doses. They are unnecessary unless a child is uncomfortable from fever. There is no benefit, and there is potential danger, in giving both medicines together.

When your child has a fever, call your pediatrician to make certain that you are dealing with the cause rather than the symptom. The fever's a good thing. The most contagious germ affecting our children is parental anxiety.

--- Laurence I. Sugarman, MD