A persistent tickle in your throat that no amount of water seems to extinguish. A twitching eye that’s caused you to unwillingly wink at one too many strangers. A general feeling of malaise that’s been following you around. What do all these afflictions have in common? One sufferer who turns to the ever-reliable Internet to diagnose their condition.

Image source: cheezburger
Image source: cheezburger

Good ol’ Internet, accepted by all major insurance providers, will return millions of results about a plethora of cancers, viruses, infectious diseases, and disorders you may be infected with at this very moment based on your throat tickle, twitchy eye, and general feeling of ickiness. Unfortunately, in your desperate search to avoid the doctor’s office and determine what exactly is plaguing you, you’re likely to come across some red herring symptoms which, in your temporary-hypochondriac mind, will seal your fate as a terminal patient.

These everyday symptoms are general maladies we all fall victim to from time to time, but they also commonly appear as telltale signs of some debilitating illnesses. Consider this shocking statistic*: 2 out of 3 visits to Dr. Search Engine are misdiagnosed because of these ridiculously vague symptoms. 2 out of 3! So the next time you visit your friendly neighborhood WebMD, don’t let these general symptoms ascertain your future living with lupus or AIDS.

Headache: Have you had a headache in the past three to six months? 

…Who in the world hasn’t experienced some kind of headache in the past three to six months? I get a headache every time I wear a headband or if my ponytail is too tight. Wait a second. Oh my gosh… NO! It hasn’t been the headbands or the ponytails! How could I be so blind? I may have suffered a stroke! I may have carbon monoxide poisoning! My days are numbered.

Fatigue: Have you been feeling tired or fatigued lately? Do you silently weep and grasp your pillow like a life preserver when your alarm goes off?

Image source: pinterest
Image source: pinterest

Hell yeah, miscellaneous illness, I am fatigued. I work full time, I try to make time for the people I care about, I speak at anti-small talk conferences, I eat cheesecake, and I write a little-read blog–a full eight hours of sleep is a commodity (why does the word commodity always make think of bartering? Like I need a beaver pelt or something to use that word). …But what if I’m not tired because of my busy schedule? Maybe I have a vitamin B12 deficiency! MY THYROID’S GOING TO EXPLODE. Oh, why didn’t I see the signs sooner?!

Bloating: Have you felt bloated?

Dear WebMD,
If you put the word “bloated” in front of any woman, she will be glad to claim it. We didn’t gain that extra five pounds–we’re just bloated! The reason we had to jump an extra three times to get into our skinny jeans last weekend? Bloated. But… Maybe I’m not bloated. I think I have irritable bowel syndrome. Or I’m pregnant! Could it be ovarian cancer? I need to get my affairs in order…

Oh dear heavens, if only I had clearer symptoms...Image source: SodaHead
Oh dear heavens, if only I had clearer symptoms…
Image source: SodaHead

Sneezing: Have you noticed yourself sneezing (and simultaneously disgusting everyone around you) more than usual lately?

Sneezing more than usual… What’s the baseline for a normal amount of sneezes? I do recall sneezing yesterday, but it was one instance of about 5 sneezes. Is that too many? I do notice that people often get exasperated with their “bless yous” because of the quantity of my sneezes. I just thought I had a vigilant nose, but perhaps it’s something more… I must be allergic to the air! What if my house is filled with mold?! I’m going to have to have a surgical procedure that makes my nose look like Lord Voldemort’s, aren’t I?

Sadly, it appears it’s too late for me… If only diseases had clearer, definitive symptoms, like a swollen pinky finger, purple splotches that look like the state of Vermont, or a sudden interest in consuming sawdust, maybe I could have properly self-diagnosed myself sooner.

50 thoughts on “Symptoms to Sneeze At

  1. oh so funny! love it. love the part about being bloated and jumping across the room w/jeans….husband put all mine in the dryer by accident and I have unfortunately had these awful bloating symptoms this week causing me to do this!

    1. Thanks! And yes, when they’re freshly laundered it’s always “bloated” never “they’re technically too small and stretch to accommodate my thighs throughout the day.”

  2. I am also a confessed hypochondriac who self diagnoses through the internet. I have had pretty much everything you can think of over the years, I drive myself crazy.
    On a positive note, I have also decided that tea tree oil is the magic cure for everything, so as soon as I feel a symtom come on I bath it in the shit and feel confident that I’m sured.
    I never said i was rational.

      1. I tolerate it because the alternative that I have MRSA or some other horrendous skin infection every time I get a zit seems do much worse.
        But it really does work on a lot of things!

    1. A completely fictional conference in which people discuss their findings about the useless of small talk.

      WebMD isn’t all bad, I correctly diagnosed my gallstones using the Internet (my doctors called it mono at first). But I just hate these random symptoms that probably mean nothing. I doubt a headache alone has solved a medical mystery.

      1. It is if you’re a little bit of a hypochondriac. I’m one of those people who gets a headache and briefly wonders, “Shit, is this a tumor?”

    1. You know, I will say it’s not always such a bad thing. I self-diagnosed my gallstones months before seeing a doctor, and at first they told me I had mono! And can you believe I actually got indignant as if I’m a qualified medical professional?

      Well anyway, it turns out I was justified, because THEY WERE WRONG! WebMD is my savior.

      1. Doctors get things wrong a lot. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many stories of people trying to convince their doctor there’s something wrong and they keep saying, “No, no, you’re fine!” -_-

  3. HAHAHA! love it, we all have a little hypochondriac in us! Being a nurse it is much worse! When I get sick, I think of all the patients I have encountered and usually end up diagnosing myself with a killer virus and on my death bed! Sometimes knowing to much is worse then the actual symptom. I have to tell myself to keep it simple.

    1. Oh gosh, I can only imagine what you must go through. I would live in fear of catching something one of the patients had. …I already hold my breath when I pass the pharmacy counter in Walgreen’s because, I mean, you can’t be too careful.

      I’m barely ever sick, so when it happens I like to be a little dramatic to make up for all the opportunities for illness I’ve missed out on.

      1. It’s basically an authoritative paper about a topic. It’s typically use in b2b communication or government propaganda.

    1. HA!! I remember there use to be this website called death clock, or something, that would give a highly specialized estimate of how much time you have left based on asking you some general questions… Funny that didn’t catch on but WebMD did.

  4. I loved this post! According to many surveys of health, it’s practically impossible NOT to be dying. Or dead. I may be a spirit right now, even.

  5. Sadly, I’m about to add some serious to your fun post. Although you said it all “tongue in cheek”, there is a lot of truth to what you’re saying. Unfortunately, I have a cousin who was running on physical exhaustion and fatigue, jet lag and stress along with the flu. We suspect all these things along converged on him simultaneously causing his usually very rational brain to have a break. He researched his symptoms online and somehow convinced himself he had end stage AIDS (he didn’t even have HIV). To “spare” his family, he left a note and walked into the gulf (by the way, he was both a certified diver and finishing his EMT training). Unfortunately there was no one there to save him. It was all very sad.

    1. Oh my gosh, Kitt. That is truly tragic. It’s such a shame that sometimes when we’re unwell, we can let this stuff get inside our heads. I think a lot of it is that we like to be in “the know.” We don’t see a need to go to the doctor for every illness, but we want some idea what we’re dealing with. Some minor symptoms, like the ones above, lend themselves to severe diagnoses.

      1. Absolutely. Sadly, if he’d just talked to his parents or grandmother about the concern he might be alive today. His dad is an ER doc, his mom and grandma were nurses.

  6. Wow that is a sad story above. I was going to say that funny you should write this today when I am feeling under the weather, but I am the type of person who thinks just walk it off, take some aspirin and you’ll be fine. I don’t need WebMD to tell me something horrible. Tomorrow I will be fine. Thanks for the entertainment Katie!!

    1. Agreed, and I’m the same way. It has to be pretty serious for me to go to the doctor. I’ve never even had a flu! A cold here and there, but nothing that retired me to bed rest.

      My white blood cells don’t play.

    1. The thing is I’m barely ever sick, so when something is wrong, I take notice. I just think some of these symptoms are really worthless in terms of diagnosing anything. Bloating? Really? Unless you have a distended abdomen, it’s probably just the big lunch you had earlier.

  7. Sorry about your fatal disease. That sucks. I’ve had several, according to WebMD. They mostly haven’t been so bad. So good luck with that. And although what I probably have right now is allergies, it could also be anthrax or ebola, so if I don’t see you again, it’s been nice knowing you.

  8. I am guilty of taking my WebMD’s words to heart. Recently I diagnosed myself with a very serious disease and spent the rest of my day brooding about my death. Not my finest hour!

    1. It’s not always bad though! I correctly diagnosed my gallstones using the Internet. …Which is more than I can say for the doctors who initially misdiagnosed it as mono.

Don't you sass me! ...Actually, please do.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s