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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Opposite of the Last Post: Things I Don't Say

1. Get plenty of rest. 

Rest treats fatigue, but that’s all. I tell patients with minor illnesses to stay in bed only if that’s where they want to be.

2. Watch your diet. 

For minor illnesses, proper nutrition isn’t very helpful. If you have no appetite, forcing food down makes you feel worse without accomplishing anything useful.

3. Drink plenty of liquids. 

There are two problems here.

A.  More water evaporates during a fever, so replacing it is a good idea, but a healthy adult can safely ignore this for a day or two. If the fever lasts longer, a doctor’s first step is not to replace liquids but to find out what’s happening.

B.  Since the dawn of history, people have believed that a sick body is full of toxins. This is common sense (almost always wrong when applied to your health). Nineteenth century doctors prescribed drugs to produce vomiting or diarrhea, and patients knew this worked because they could see the smelly toxins pouring out. We no longer believe in “purges”, but enthusiasts (doctors among them) still believe that urinating expels toxins, so they advise you to drink 6 or 8 or 10 glasses of waters a day.

4. Take aspirin or Tylenol. 

“But then the fever came back,” patients tell me as if this were bad. In fact, these drugs wear off after a few hours. The fever of common infections won’t harm a healthy person, and aspirin or Tylenol won’t shorten the course of any ailment.  It’s all right to take them to feel better but not essential.

5. Keep warm.  Keep cool. 

We shiver when our tem­perature rises and sweat when it falls. That’s how the body warms up and cools down. Shivering or sweating are not necessarily ominous signs; nor is it good “when the fever breaks.”

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