Alpine Mummy

A new life in the middle of nowhere

Yet more suppositories, Madame


Poor Alpine Girl has once again encountered the French medical system.  I’ll say one thing for French doctors:  they certainly are thorough…

Beaucoup de medicaments

Beaucoup de médicaments – all for Alpine Girl

She started off with just a cold and a slight temperature on Monday last week.  I didn’t really think too much of it:  it’s the first time she’s been ill and, although it broke my heart to see her red eyes and snotty nose, like the good English girl I am, I didn’t want to bother the doctor.  I remember going to see the doctor in the UK when Alpine Boy had his first cold (as I was worried it had got to his chest), and being told it was, well, just a cold.  The doctor didn’t actually roll his eyes and call me a hypochondriac during his three-and-a-half-minute consultation, but he may as well have.  I felt truly chastised for having wasted his time for “just a cold”.

So, forgetting the French aren’t like that, I didn’t take Alpine Girl to the doctor’s at first.  I still thought she was just a bit bunged up and I didn’t want to take her all the way into town in the freezing cold for nothing (it is very cold here at the moment).  But last Tuesday was the night from hell:  she wouldn’t sleep at all and I spent all night walking round with her, sucking snot out her nose (nice) and waving eucalyptus steam around the room.  It was the three hours’ sleep that night that finally convinced me that a doctor wouldn’t mind seeing her.

So last Wednesday we bundled her up and braved the cold for the doctor’s appointment.  I was still not convinced a doctor wouldn’t just tell me to stop being such a drama queen, but Alpine Papa convinced me.  You can tell he’s a true Frenchman.

And worth it, it was.  We had a full 15-minute consultation – none of the cursory glances I had experienced with the NHS.  (Please don’t think I’m slagging off all NHS GPs, I’m really not – some of my best friends are NHS GPs and I am sure they do a fantastic job!  Unfortunately they don’t work in my local doctors’ surgery…).  Everything was thoroughly and methodically checked – eyes, ears, nose, throat, chest, tummy, head….  And there was not one single incidence of eye-rolling.  Unfortunately, though, that’s because Alpine Girl did in fact have more than “just a cold” – she had an actual, real-life chest infection.  The weird, fleeting feeling of relief that I wasn’t a time-waster, however, was certainly not worth the pity I felt as I looked into the weeping, rheumy eyes of my poorly little girl and held her close as she coughed with fatigue (straight into my face.  Great.  I am waiting for my very own chest infection now).

But don’t worry, Alpine Girl – the doctor has just the thing for you.

Lots of things in fact.

We got antibiotics.  And a nose wash.  And eye drops.  And paracetamol.  And a decongestant.  And 6 sessions of physiotherapy.  My mouth dropped further as the doctor’s prescription got longer.

I had learned my lesson from the previous time the doctor gave us a prescription for paracetamol.  This time I swallowed any pride about not wanting to look like a stupid English prude, and specifically asked for syrup, not suppositories (to be honest I was thinking more about Alpine Boy – I’m now an expert at sticking tablets up a baby’s bum, but I don’t dare even suggest it to a grumpy three-year-old with a headache who has never had a suppository before…).  The doctor chuckled and obligingly deleted the word ‘suppositoires’ from her screen and, with a look of amusement in her eyes (no doubt relishing her new dinner-party story about the funny English woman who doesn’t want suppositories), slowly typed ‘s-i-r-o-p’.  I sat back smugly in my seat:  English sensibilities – 1; French superior treatment plan – 0.  Ha.

The doctor got her own back though – I casually mentioned that I had put some Vicks on Alpine Girl’s chest during that Tuesday night from hell, and she frowned and muttered how bad that was.  “I’ve got something much better than that for you” she said, taking a pen to the already long prescription.  “It’s really good – herbal decongestant, gets to work right away, will clear her nose and let her sleep.”  She looked up.  “I know you don’t like suppositories, but…”.  I could swear she was hiding a revengeful smile.

English sensibilities – 1; French superior treatment plan – 1.

And then the physio.  Wow – definitely 2:1 to the French by now.  It wasn’t a particularly serious chest-infection, but apparently this is standard treatment here.  Do they do that in the UK?  I’ve never heard of it (but that doesn’t really say much).

We had no idea what the physio process involved.  Alpine Papa’s colleagues were therefore keen to explain it to him, one of them helpfully reporting that her kid had been so traumatised by the treatment that he now refuses to visit any doctor.  Alpine Papa also made the mistake of watching the process on You Tube, and called me from work just before the appointment to explain just quite how horrific it all was.  Thanks.

So it was with trepidation and a knot in my stomach that I cautiously opened the physio’s door.  “Don’t worry, Madame” he smiled at me kindly (whilst cracking his knuckles and rolling up his sleeves like a pro arm-wrestler).  “It won’t hurt a bit.  I promise.”  My relief was short-lived, however, as he quickly went on: “She’ll scream like hell though! Don’t worry, that’s good”.

Oh.  OK.

So, for all you physio novices out there too: the process involves a burly physiotherapist putting his huge hands on my tiny baby’s fragile, bird-like chest and squashing her like a deflating air-mattress until all the air is forced out of her miniature lungs.  He doesn’t squash her hard, he assures me, but try telling Alpine Girl that.  She did indeed scream like hell.  Apparently that’s good because that gets all the gunk out of those millions of alveoli.  But I’m a mummy, not a doctor, and so it didn’t seem good to me, watching her get redder and more stressed and tired, screaming and screaming and not having a clue what was happening to her.  That first session was probably about as difficult for me as it was for her.

I’m hardened now though.  Maybe it’s because for the last two weeks she hasn’t slept more than five hours in a row, and has started waking up screaming two or three times every night.  I’m so tired that it’s actually a relief to be able to put her in someone else’s capable (albeit firm) hands for 20 minutes or so every day.  Even if it makes her cry.  And I can see it’s working – after five of the six prescribed sessions her lungs are getting clearer and her coughing has reduced.  If I can manage to get the car through the 60cm of snow we have up here then we’ll go to the final session this afternoon, and hopefully that will be it, she’ll be cured.  I never thought I’d say it, but I think I am a convert to the French school of interventionist medicine.  I’m sure many people will have things to say about how such treatment really isn’t necessary and causes more harm than good, but all I can say is it worked for us.  That horrible chesty cough has gone.

And you know what?  Those decongestant suppositories worked a treat…

Snowed in?  Not yet...

Snowed in? Not yet…

Author: Alpine Mummy

Now an ex-City lawyer, I gave up London life 'just for a year' to spend my maternity leave in a tiny village in the French Alps. Nearly three years later Alpine Family is still here - the legal career is gone but we're living the dream (most of the time) and skiing and hiking our way through life. Walks and fresh air are now the order of the day - bye bye smog, hello mountains...

19 thoughts on “Yet more suppositories, Madame

  1. hilarious. Love it. As usual!! especially imagining the jokes the doc would be sharing about you that night! How did you get on with the syrop? Lucie (our 1yo) is teething a lot lately so she get’s a dose at night on a semi regular basis and i swear she is a little bit addicted to the Doliprane. To be fair, it smells nice, but she open her mouth wide when she sees me arrive with the syringe and she opens her mouth like a little bird! Glad to hear alpine girl is “cured” – my brother’s baby’s had a bronchiolite last year and they also had to have a (traumatic) physio session…i can’t say i look forward to ever having to go through one of these!! xxx


    • aw thank you! It’s a small world round here you know – if the doctor is telling that story at a dinner party I’m sure it’ll get back to us somehow (no doubt in a massively exaggerated version!).

      I remember Alpine Boy having the same ‘addiction’ to Calpol as your little girl. Did him no harm! Doliprane sirop seems to have gone down well in this house – have you tried it? It’s lovely…! Thanks for reading again! xx


  2. Are you sure she’s not waking up screaming from nightmares about physiotherapists?? I dread to think what the Germans will have in store for us, then, should H ever come down with something similar… X


    • You know what? I told the physio that she was probably waking up because she was traumatised by the whole experience. I thought he knew I was joking, but then he kept asking me worried questions. And assuring me that she shouldn’t really be traumatised and he hadn’t hurt her. Probably worried I’m going to sue him. Fingers crossed H never has to find out if they do the same thing in Germany! xxx


  3. Omg it does all sound a bit brutal! But my mum and stepdad and brother and sister in law swear by the french doctors too – they all live in Burgundy. My brother recently had an accident and snapped a tendon in his knee and had to have an operation – under an epidural…eek. But a physio visited him at home nearly every day – can’t imagine that in England! Since I’ve lived in Cornwall though ALL my visits to the doc have been taken very seriously…I’d got so used to the same treatment in London ie: if you’re not dying, piss off… that it’s been a real eye opener… could almost say it’s a pleasure going to the doctor! 😉


    • It’s crazy isn’t it – Alpine Girl needed sessions at the weekend so the physio came out on Saturday and Sunday morning (despite us living in the middle of nowhere and despite the huge amount of snow)! Amazing. I’m glad to hear your doctors are more conscientious than them there London types – maybe because all the good doctors realise that living and working in London is a little bit crap so they escape to the country?! Hope your brother is on the mend – ouch! 🙂


  4. Hehe I was going to say I’ve never heard of a suppository helping a cold and chesty cough before! Their medical system sounds amazing thoigh!!


  5. Ohh, suppositories and physio treatments for chest infections… this sounds all too familiar! Though let me clarify that when we were babies, it was my brother that had the weak chest, not me! But yes, Belgian doctors were like the French from what you write, suppo, physio and …. I’ll let you find out in your own time 😉
    I know of a dad who, having been sent to a pharmacy in the middle of the night for his feverish baby, asked if suppositories were to be melted in the bath water… You’ll never look at those fizzy bath “balls” in the same way now 😉

    Hope she’s better and hasn’t passed her infection to the rest of the familly!


    • haha – Belgians and French must use the same medical text books 😉 Melting suppos in bath water would be a lot easier and nicer for Alpine Girl, and calmer for me – that’s something that needs inventing…. She’s doing much better thanks – completely cured in fact (which is good because we already missed one week of ski-ing because we couldn’t leave the house – I didn’t want to miss another week!).


  6. I am fascinated by the differences in our health systems! My son just had a bad chest cold/cough. Went to the doctor and since he had no fever, they sent us home with nothing. Told us to keep running the humidifier at night. I’d take some of those suppositories for a quicker ending to these things. Physio. Wow! I bet you aren’t left feeling groggy from the medicines though. Hope she’s cured!


    • I know – every time I think I’ve seen it all they throw something else at me (like physio!). I am totally amazed by the decongestant suppositories, they worked so well, who would have thought it. ( I dread to think what’s in them though – the doctor warned us not to give them for more than four days as they would start to “irritate”…)

      I hope your son is better – perhaps I should start exporting French medicines out to the States and the UK – I could send out care packages?! 😉


      • I’m starting to think all of our medicine is crap. So often the side effects leave you feeling worse!


        • Ah, the famous US medicines! I have a friend who will only buy painkillers in the US as they’re so much stronger than ours. I have another friend who also buys Medised (?) to knock her children out when they’re poorly (she assures me she doesn’t just use it when they’re naughty) – I don’t think you can get that in the UK either. So your drugs are either much better or much more dangerous than ours, hence why they’re banned in the UK!


        • When Big Sis was born Medised was available over the counter for babies over 6 months, now it’s only for over 6 years… The way some of my nct pals administered it for a good night’s sleep… I’m not surprised the rules of sale were changed! Worked a treat once or twice during chicken pox though! X


        • So that’s what it is – I knew something had changed. Glad to hear it’s still OK to sedate children over 6… 😉 We’ve not had chicken pox in this house yet (and I’m hoping I’ve not just jinxed it by writing that…), but I’ve heard Medised is a mummy’s dream in those cases. If we get it I’ll let you know what miracle cures the French offer! x


  7. Oh my goodness – that sounded a tad brutal, but I have to say it knocks socks off our health system. Very thorough indeed! Hope she is getting better now and that you are getting some sleep!


  8. Pingback: The Traumatic Incident of the Tooth in Daytime | Alpine Mummy

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