Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sickness Makes You Sick

“Normally I wouldn’t bother you with this cough, but when I started to bring up green mucus I knew I had to do something…..”

Hotel guests tell me this regularly, and it’s wrong. Everyone’s respiratory tract makes a quart of mucus a day. When the respiratory tract is irritated, it makes more, and the mucus may turn yellow or green. In an otherwise healthy person, this has no ominous significance.

No one stares at their throat when they feel fine, and a sore throat always looks suspicious. Everyone knows that white spots on your tonsils is a sign of Strep that requires urgent attention. In fact, plenty of ordinary viral infections make tonsils look bad.

“The fever came back,” guests tell me as if this were a serious development. But Tylenol or aspirin only work for a few hours, and then you must take more. When patients tell me that they worry about a fever, my advice is “then don’t take your temperature.” They treat this as a joke, but the truth is that fever is just another symptom.

All bets are off if you suffer a life-threatening illness or serious immune deficiency or are extremely old or extremely young, but this is not the case with almost everyone I see. When people in good health get sick, they feel sick.

You should certainly contact your doctor if something worries you, but make your decision on going to the office on the basis of how bad you feel.

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