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Because my mother doesn’t understand any two-letter word that begins with N, I found myself sitting in her living room over the holiday weekend despite my better judgment. To the left of me, Bella sneezed. A moment later, to my right, Sean coughed. My eyes widened in trepidation. “Something must have tickled her nose,” Jane said to explain her daughter’s sneeze, while Sean assured me his cough was due to the dry air.

“It’s swine flu,” said Mom, a mischievous gleam in her eye. I pretended not to hear her and surreptitiously put my hand over my nose and mouth and tried not to breathe.

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bardo Sept. 16, 2009 @ 1:34 p.m.

while I don't blame you for not wanting strep (it sucks), one statement you made is inaccurate. Even as an adult, the more germs you expose yourself to, the more your immune system develops and strengthens. It's beneficial for kids and adults to, say, eat something after it's dropped on the floor. Trying to avoid germs is impossible and counterproductive, just ask your sister Jane.

(not that I always practice what I preach)

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Barbarella Fokos Sept. 16, 2009 @ 1:41 p.m.

Thanks for the tip, Bardo! I won't go out of my way to attract germs, but I am getting better at allowing them into my space (e.g., eating uncooked fruit). Still, food off the floor is one thing, snot from someone else's nose is quite another. It kills me to think of how many people I used to kiss in one evening during my raver days. ;)

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David Dodd Sept. 16, 2009 @ 1:41 p.m.

"Even as an adult, the more germs you expose yourself to, the more your immune system develops and strengthens."

This is not so true with infections. Strep is an infection. For viruses, yes, but infections not so much.

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SDaniels Sept. 16, 2009 @ 1:45 p.m.

True, bardo, within reason. You don't want to go around lapping the linoleum. And if you have an overtaxed or weakened immune system, you know you shouldn't offer your table-neighbor that sip of wine, no matter how table-neighborly you feel :(

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SDaniels Sept. 16, 2009 @ 1:46 p.m.

PS: Roy Porter is the best author on the history of medicine, and microbes in particular.

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bardo Sept. 16, 2009 @ 2:20 p.m.

SDaniels, good point about a weakened immune system. Definitely true.

refriedgringo, by "infection" you mean bacteria? I've never heard that. Why would bacteria be any different? We develop resistance to any infection, be it viral or bacterial, once we are exposed (in a healthy immune system).

Interesting discussion, nonetheless.

I think that if you're going to try to avoid any common infection, it would be strep. I've had it a couple times and it's the worst!

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Russ Lewis Sept. 16, 2009 @ 3:40 p.m.

If it's worse than strep, no thanks. I've had brain surgery and I've had strep, and if I had to go through either again, I'd choose brain surgery.

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David Dodd Sept. 16, 2009 @ 4:30 p.m.

SD: I've had mono, I'll take strep anyday.

Bardo: Viruses aren't cellular, bacteria are. Viruses need cells in order to multiply but are otherwise countered directly by the immune system in your DNA/RNA at the cellular level (your DNA/RNA mutates so that the virus has no affect, presuming that the virus isn't potent enough to work its voodoo before your DNA can adapt and overcome, or it isn't a bad virus like ebola or AIDS).

This isn't the case with bacteria (antibiotics attack aspects of a bacteria, mostly to inhibit it from multiplying by attacking the cell walls of the bacteria), in that while the human body often produces white cells that can do the trick, there isn't any adaptation at the molecular level, simply your body remembering what white cell characteristics were produced the last time it encountered the bacteria.

Against a virus, you can be immunized (the immunization is a strain of the virus itself), but that doesn't work against bacteria.

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SDaniels Sept. 16, 2009 @ 6:15 p.m.

Nice little package of a lesson on bacteria, gringo!

russl, I hear brain surgery is painless, so that makes sense.

Mono often involves the swelling of glands in your neck, so that you can't even look down, and it's like having a bad flu, but for months. Glad I got over it--and sharing lipstick in the girls' bathroom--at fourteen ;)

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Russ Lewis Sept. 16, 2009 @ 7:08 p.m.

"I hear brain surgery is painless, so that makes sense." Well, not exactly painless, but the brain does have no nerve endings.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 16, 2009 @ 11:13 p.m.

Gringo-you have somne serious medical knowledge.

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David Dodd Sept. 16, 2009 @ 11:39 p.m.

Surfpup, I assure you that it was only learned in the best interest of my family here. When I first came to Mexico to live with my wife, her kids, her family (you pretty much marry the entire clan here), I was sort of shocked. Anytime one of the kids had a little cough or sniffle, the wife immediately took the child to the local pharmacy (there are more pharmacies here than bars). Everyone did this, it was quite common. She would have the person working there (note: not a trained pharmacist) inject the kid with antibiotics.

I was stunned. (Even more surprising is that it's STILL practiced here in Mexico.)

"Don't do that," I told her. "Penicillin isn't a cure for a cold."

"Why?" She asked, seventeen years ago.

I decided that I needed to understand precisely why, right then and there, so I did the research. I've been forced to do that here ever since, every time someone is subscribed something. It really is a free society here, you can buy just about anything over-the-counter (except for heavy pain medications), so I figured I had better get a little smarter in a big hurry.

Happily, everyone here is pretty much healthy, and when someone gets a cold I make some chicken soup and make sure they drink a lot of water with a glass of juice or two. They heal up just fine.

I love the freedom of self-medication, but I think it comes with a responsibility to understand what one is putting into their body.

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antigeekess Sept. 16, 2009 @ 11:54 p.m.

"I love the freedom of self-medication, but I think it comes with a responsibility to understand what one is putting into their body."

Amen to that. I'm constantly stunned at how willfully ignorant we all are concerning our own get-around biovehicle. What irritates me even more is the fact that when told 'exactly' how to fix whatever ailment they're bitching about, most people would rather suffer and make others around them suffer by continuing to bitch, than just do a little internet research and/or head to the damn health food store & pick up a homeopathic.

Pet peeve #6482. Grrrr....

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David Dodd Sept. 17, 2009 @ 12:11 a.m.

anti: Or worse, we keep pumping stuff into our bodies that our bodies don't need. My sister-in-law is already immune to most common antibiotics because of this. Antibiotics need the body's help in locating the nasty bacteria. But if one keeps pumping in those antibiotics, and then the body can't find anything to help the medicine to attack, then after awhile the body simply ignores the drug. It's like crying wolf.

The internet here in Mexico costs less than a dollar per hour in any cyber cafe. All of the information is there in Spanish now, and I think that people are learning that these drugs don't perform miracles, and that most drugs depend on interaction from our own auto-immune system in order to be effective. I predict that Mexico's pharmacies are going to be more for tourists to purchase drugs at a much cheaper price that where they live, than as the miracle huts that they have been used as since I've lived here.

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SDaniels Sept. 17, 2009 @ 12:28 a.m.

"Everyone did this, it was quite common. She would have the person working there (note: not a trained pharmacist) inject the kid with antibiotics."

That is shocking news, refried. Is this still common? I shiver to think of the superbugs evolving.

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SDaniels Sept. 17, 2009 @ 12:31 a.m.

Antigeekess peeved: "most people would rather suffer and make others around them suffer by continuing to bitch, than just do a little internet research..."

And what is up with folk who have headache or fever, but won't ever put Tylenol into their temples?

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antigeekess Sept. 17, 2009 @ 12:41 a.m.

Refried observed:

"Or worse, we keep pumping stuff into our bodies that our bodies don't need. My sister-in-law is already immune to most common antibiotics because of this. Antibiotics need the body's help in locating the nasty bacteria. But if one keeps pumping in those antibiotics, and then the body can't find anything to help the medicine to attack, then after awhile the body simply ignores the drug. It's like crying wolf."

Even worse, they give ya a KILLER yeast infection due to killing off the good bacteria that keeps that stuff in check.

For me, it's a case of the cure usually being worse than whatever ailed me in the first place.

(I know, TMI.) :P

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antigeekess Sept. 17, 2009 @ 12:45 a.m.

"And what is up with folk who have headache or fever, but won't ever put Tylenol into their temples?"

Acetaminophen wouldn't be my first choice any more, due to the recent associations with liver damage. I'm more of a naproxen sodium (Aleve) fan.

I just wish my coworkers would get their own drugs, and leave me and mine alone. :)

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Russ Lewis Sept. 17, 2009 @ 1:07 a.m.

"And what is up with folk who have headache or fever, but won't ever put Tylenol into their temples?" It's no mystery to me, since those drugs do nothing for me. Aspirin and such have NEVER relieved a headache for me. I mentioned this to my neurologist, and she prescribed me some Darvocet -- first drug I've ever taken that relieves a headache for me. Once in the hospital I was given Vicoden for a headache; nothing. No relief at all. Some drugs connect with you and others don't; no real mystery. Darvocet is my drug. Take all the Aleve you want.

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antigeekess Sept. 17, 2009 @ 1:14 a.m.

Russl, if you ever run out of your Rx, you might try BC Powders. Had a boyfriend once who had encephalitis as a kid, and it seemed as if that was what was happening to him as an adult, as well. Symptoms so severe he looked to be having a stroke. It was scary.

BC Powders were his remedy of choice.

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SDaniels Sept. 17, 2009 @ 1:23 a.m.

"Acetaminophen wouldn't be my first choice any more, due to the recent associations with liver damage."

C'mon, AG. You know you have to take a LOT for this to happen. Don't start sounding like one of those "I-won't-take-it-so-there" sufferers! :)

What says Doc Gringo on this? Concur? Contraindicate?

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SDaniels Sept. 17, 2009 @ 1:26 a.m.

20: russl, I'm surprised Darvocet works for you. I've never heard of any pain killer working for a migraine sufferer--they usually end up taking shots of Imitrex and the like. When I had a spinal tap a couple of months ago, and the five-day horror afterward, my man fed me Percocets every couple of hours. They did absolutely nothing against the headache.

Of course, they do help some with the abdominal stuff.

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antigeekess Sept. 17, 2009 @ 1:28 a.m.

"C'mon, AG. You know you have to take a LOT for this to happen. Don't start sounding like one of those "I-won't-take-it-so-there" sufferers!" :)

Probably so. I haven't looked at the study to check the amounts given. Could be equivalent to the amount of saccharin you have to feed rats to give them cancer, or something.

Although, livers in particular can be finicky little traitors, as I believe Refried has observed. My chiropractor/herbalist/amazing-witch-doctor-of-all-trades observed that mine was enlarged several months ago. The culprit was apparently the artificial sweetener in my diet soda.

Jeezus, if I'd known that was going to happen, I'd have just drunk vodka instead. :)

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SDaniels Sept. 17, 2009 @ 1:33 a.m.

I saw on a hospital chart sometime last year that I had "fatty liver." I asked, and the nurse said it was absolutely nothing to worry about. I take many drugs, incl. two injectibles, and yes, a fair amount of acetaminophen. Not surprised to hear I have a bit of enlargement.

So, AG---I've been pounding the diet Hansen's lately. No good?

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David Dodd Sept. 17, 2009 @ 2:07 a.m.

"Jeezus, if I'd known that was going to happen, I'd have just drunk vodka instead. :)"

I prefer scotch. That way, if I die a death earlier than expected and someone gets my liver, I can give the gift that keeps on giving :)

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SDaniels Sept. 17, 2009 @ 2:17 a.m.

Switch to the Glenlivet and make back the proceeds by charging people to just "hold" your liver for a few minutes :)

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David Dodd Sept. 17, 2009 @ 2:23 a.m.

Glenlivet's expensive. I'll have to check with Bauder to see if it's an optimum time to invest ;)

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Russ Lewis Sept. 17, 2009 @ 2:50 a.m.

SD: I never said I had migraines. But still, it takes Darvocets to control a headache for me; one time it took seven. I've since learned that six a day is the maximum recommended dose to avoid liver damage.

Funny, I had a spinal tap myself a few years ago; it weren't nothin'. I really think the side-effects of those things are oversold, or more likely, the horror stories you hear today are based on the medicine of 30 years ago. Medical science advances, but the horror stories remain. Case in point: back surgery. I'd never want to undergo a 1965 back operation, but I'd redo my 2005 back surgery in a heartbeat for the benefits it provided (i.e., no more sciatica).

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SDaniels Sept. 17, 2009 @ 2:52 a.m.

A small home loan may purchase a few bottles. I wonder if Chateau Margaux does layaway? :)

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SDaniels Sept. 17, 2009 @ 2:56 a.m.

russl, I had no idea what I was in for, and they acted at the hospital like "it weren't nothing." Hmmph. Couldn't lift my head for five days, and had strange head changes and dizzy spells for a few weeks afterward. Loss of spinal fluid is a serious thing, and they should really keep you in the hospital for a couple of days afterward, in my opinion.

As for the Darvocet, same max dose recommended for Percocet. Sometimes the pain demands more. "This is what happens," as gringo might aptly comment :)

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Russ Lewis Sept. 17, 2009 @ 3:13 a.m.

SD: Sounds like you had a bad reaction to the spinal tap. Or maybe that's normal. I'm prone to having bad reactions to neurological tests, so your reaction is what should have happened to me, but it didn't. (Mine was four or five years ago, if that makes any difference.)

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SDaniels Sept. 17, 2009 @ 3:21 a.m.

russl: I did a little research and talked to some people once I recovered, and found out that it is, unfortunately, a pretty common reaction. Would have researched it first, as I do all procedures and drugs, but it was an emergency deal. I don't think yours being four or five years ago and mine a couple of months ago has much to do with it, either. More to do with the state of your health before they start, how much fluid they take, how long they poke around in there, etc. Glad you were ok!

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Russ Lewis Sept. 17, 2009 @ 3:37 a.m.

Dude, sorry it was so rough. I went into it very apprehensive, knowing the fearsome reputation that that test has, and I was totally let down. I'll take your word though that your reaction is still the norm. I've had some gnarly s*** happen to me on the neuro ward, but not from that.

Enough neurology talk, at least for me. Happy birthday, Barb.

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Joe Poutous Sept. 17, 2009 @ 6:25 a.m.

This morning at about 4:30, Joey sneaked into our room to tell me that he was "coughy and sniffly". He has been in school for 1 week now.

Thus it begins...

  • Joe
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david Sept. 17, 2009 @ 9:12 a.m.

Years ago, when I was living in Boston, a friend of mine insisted that I go with her to visit her Chinese Herbalist. So it was that on a chilly morning in November I found myself sitting in a chair across the desk from the "doctor", as he placed the tips of three fingers on my wrist to feel my pulse. Lifting one finger or two in different combinations, not unlike a trumpet player, he would furrow his brow and scribble notes in Chinese with his other hand. This went on for about 10 minutes after which he proclaimed that "my liver was not supple". Of course, he had just the thing to cure me and wrote out a prescription for me to hand to the elderly woman standing in front of a thousand little wooden drawers.

I handed my prescription to the woman and she set immediately to work laying five sheets of goldenrod-colored paper on the counter -- I couldn't help noticing that everyone else was getting white paper. I took this as a sure sign that I was already circling the drain. The woman flew into action, pulling a bit of moss from this drawer, some tree bark from that one, 10,000 year old yam, leaves, seeds, sticks and what I would swear was dirt. She made a tall pile of compost in the center of each sheet of paper, then finished by folding them up to make giant sopapilla-sized sachets. I was instructed to take these packets home, place the contents on one packet into six cups of water, boil until reduced to three cups and then let cool. Once cool I was to drink a cup of this tar three times a day for five days, using up all the packets. The woman suggest I might want to warm the creosote in the microwave before drinking.

At the time, I was sharing an apartment with two other housemates who were out when I set to boiling the first bitch's brew. Upon returning home they nearly lost their lunches. Much cursing and admonishment ensued and I was forbidden from brewing another batch inside the apartment. ...and I was supposed to drink this stuff.

It wasn't easy. I'd warm up my cuppa sludge, sit down at my desk, open a magazine to a really fascinating article (with pictures) and then I would power down the cup as quickly as I could while concentrating intently on the magazine and breathing only through my mouth. The amazing thing was that a week later, after 15 cups of that stuff, I was miraculously cured! :)

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Joe Poutous Sept. 17, 2009 @ 9:38 a.m.

David - What was your ailment, and do you think that it was the sludge or just time that cured you?

  • Joe
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david Sept. 17, 2009 @ 11:33 a.m.

Tiki -

I was "cured" because after that I never felt the need to go back and endure more of the cure! :)

I have no idea if I ever had an ailment at all. I felt perfectly fine when I went in. Though after drinking that stuff, I'm glad it didn't kill me! I was just accompanying my friend and decided to see what the doctor would say if he checked me out. The examination is free -- the herbal packs cost about $25, though I was not obligated to buy them.

david

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Joe Poutous Sept. 17, 2009 @ 11:57 a.m.

I'm amazed that you went through with the "cure"!

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ebrphoto Sept. 17, 2009 @ 5:51 p.m.

"...not a germophobe so much as germaware." - LOL!!!! Good one, Barb. :)

Mono SUCKS - way worse than strep in my opinion having experienced the 'joy' of both. Barb, good thing you didn't get it from all that kissing back in your raver days!

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David Dodd Sept. 17, 2009 @ 6:12 p.m.

"What says Doc Gringo on this? Concur? Contraindicate?"

It depends. I have a theory that the body, once cured of some sort of pain, craves the cure, regardless. Some drugs are stronger than others, but even something as seemingly harmless as chewable aspirin could conceivably cuase the body to develop an immunity, or else could have more of a psychological effect on the cure than would the actual active ingredient in the drug.

I have an extremely high threshhold of pain. I have broken bones and waited days to get treated. I had several occurences of pneumothorax that went completely undetected until I went to the doctor thinking I had some form of pleurisy that might require antibiotics (the doctor freaked the hell out when he read the x-rays, another story for another time). In short, I'm a bad consultant for treating pain. I'd prefer meditation over medication in such circumstances.

Otherwise, a couple of shots of bourbon, if you need it.

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SDaniels Sept. 17, 2009 @ 8:42 p.m.

David, your story is familiar. My man suffered from carpal-tunnel in his hands, and went to a Chinese herbalist, who gave him packets of stinking herbs to mix with water and 'bathe' his hands several times a day. The only measurable effect: his hands were slowly dyed red.

...which reminds of that Bugs Bunny cartoon:

"Want yer palm read?"

"Why, sure..."

"Here ya go!"

(Slaps a paintbrush across character's hand). :)

Gringo philosophized:

"I have a theory that the body, once cured of some sort of pain, craves the cure, regardless.

That is an interesting theory, indeed. So you are saying that once the complaint is gone, we continue to crave the effect of the cure? I can understand that. One can even be driven by desperation to idealize the method of cure.

It has got to be one of the psychological motives behind Munchausen's syndrome and Munchausen's by proxy. The sufferer experiences the release of the cure, and becomes addicted to it and the whole ritual of healthcare, including the coveted attention and empathy of the doctor.

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