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Head Colds Are No Picnic, But It Could Be (and Has Been) a Lot Worse

Is it "starve a cold, feed a fever" or "feed a cold, starve a fever?" Oh, never mind. (Photo by Roxianne Messel)

It’s been a very busy day. The ladies from Shogun of Japan stopped by with lunch. Hitmaker Buddy Jewell stopped by with music. And yours truly had to take a breather on the couch. I’m getting over a head cold and I guess the exhaustion phase finally hit me. See, I don’t make a good patient, which is why it’s a good thing I’m rarely sick. But that doesn’t mean I’ve always been the picture of health. There are a few very long weeks from my past I’d just as soon forget.

THERE’S NOTHING MEASLY ABOUT MEASLES

When I was in fourth grade, I started feeling funny the day after Christmas and felt these little bumps, or something, inside my mouth. My mother, who’s a nurse, seemed to have an idea what that might be. We went to see my pediatrician, and after examining me, he informed us that I had the measles. He prescribed some medications then escorted me out the back door of the doctor’s building. Well, that scared me to death. Obviously, it was a precautionary measure taken to avoid infecting those sitting in the waiting room. But when you’re 9 years old and being treated like a government witness, it’s a little scary. Yes, the measles. How much fun for a fourth grader, right? I couldn’t keep anything solid down and that is all I will say about that. I was reduced to water and chicken broth. I dropped weight like you wouldn’t believe. I had to stay in dark rooms and wear sunglasses. My temperature shot up to 104. On the plus side, if you wanna call it that, I missed a week of school. My mother, who saw no plus side, quite literally thought I was going to die. She told me that much later. Those are strong words coming from a health care professional. Eventually, I rode it out and got better and got back to school. But it’s not one of the better times I’ve had in my history. Luckily, measles strike but once. On the other hand…there’s the flu.

ONE FLU OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST

Mike Licht--NotionsCapital.com, Flickr.com

While I’ve had the flu more than once, it couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time than when I was a freshman at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. If you’ve had the flu, you know it comes on pretty quickly. After class one day, I just felt immediately rotten. I went to the infirmary where the good doctor informed me that I might have hepatitis. Uh, excuse me?!? That’s quite a jump. But after further examination, he dialed it back down to flu. You gotta hand it to him; he actually made the flu sound palatable. Well, I went back to the dorm and packed. I couldn’t stay there or everyone on the floor would’ve gotten sick. I drove up the hill to the Environmental Sciences and Technology Building where I had to take a world geography exam. I had a professor who didn’t give make-up tests, even if you were sick. So, I had to take it that day with a temperature of 101. Hey, if he wanted the flu, he could have it. After the test I drove back to Owensboro and spent the week recuperating in my bedroom. I hated missing that much school; it’s funny how things change.

GOOD OLD PNEU-MONIA

Fast forward five years and I’m sitting in my office at work. I felt tired. I also noticed that my breathing was accompanied by a kind of chest rattle. Not cool. I went to the doctor and was given the awesome news that I had pneumonia. Well, that scared me to death. Pneumonia is not something you mess around with. I got my meds and went home and spent yet another week fighting an illness that had really taken a hold of me. This one was weird, though.
First of all, I never once had a fever the entire time I had pneumonia. With my limited medical knowledge, I didn’t realize that wasn’t a good thing. Fever means your body is fighting infection. Mine wasn’t. Boy, was I out of it. And to add insult to injury, I was taking a prescription medication called Tavist, at the time, for my allergies. Well, Tavist has a rather interesting side effect, under a certain condition. One night, I was sleeping on my stomach and woke up, looked over my pillow and was speeding down a mountain highway in the middle of the night…ON MY BED! I was literally gripping the sides of my bed so I wouldn’t fall off. This was more than a dream. So, I mentioned this to my mother who quickly whipped out her handy Physicians’ Desk Reference. And lo and behold, “hallucinations” were listed as a side effect of Tavist IF you are also suffering from a pulmonary infection, which I was. I stopped taking it and had no more fun evenings on the mountain.

So I guess I can consider myself lucky that this latest annoyance was only a head cold. I make sure I drink plenty of water to keep the nasty stuff at bay. But the way my sinuses work when the weather changes, I can never totally rule out something like this. Pass the Kleenex.

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