Monday, March 03, 2008

Why Internet health advice is not necessarily helpful when you're sick

by shamanic

Here in Atlanta, there's some kind of vicious stomach bug going around that I was lucky enough to pick up. I had dinner after Saturday night's poetry slam and was home by about 12:30 with some heartburn, so I didn't sleep well. By 4:30am, I was unbelievably sick.

The worst of it was over by about noon, and I was finally able to sleep (I'm not sure which part was worse -- being that sick, or being that sick on no real sleep). I was doing some reading on gastroenteritis, which the web helpfully explained is the technical term for what I had, and saw that it is an inflammation of the GI tract caused by a virus.

The part where web advice caused problems is that by about 7:00 last night, the body aches were so severe that I was nearly crying. I have a nice happy bottle of Ibuprofen in my room, but I kept having this thought that putting Ibuprofen on an inflamed GI tract might be bad. I called a friend who used to be an EMT, again, nearly crying, to see if I would be threatening my own life if I took a couple.

She was clearly on the amused side by my ramblings, but assured me that it was perfectly normal for everything to hurt, and that a couple of pills would be fine, would not cause bleeding, would not kill me, and would not bring the sick back. So I took them, and slept like crazy, and woke up at 4:30 this morning feeling not quite right as rain, but at least good enough to make some coffee and clean my kitchen up a bit (it was dirty for reasons unrelated to the sick, but I meant to clean it yesterday). I have a feeling that today will be littered with naps, but I'm definitely on the mend.

It occurred to me in the worst of it yesterday that the last time I was sick with a stomach bug, except for a day of food poisoning sometime in the late 90's, was back when my mom was still taking care of me. And yesterday, at the age of 31, I will admit that I wanted nothing more than for my mom to be here to hand me glasses of ginger ale and put cold washcloths on my head. I guess when it comes down to it, we're all kids again when we're at our worst. At least it was a quick bug.

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