Swine Flu and Fear

I’m writing this on day three of a fever, so I apologize if it isn’t as coherent as I’d like.

I’m sick. It started off feeling like my usual sinus troubles, so I treated it in the usual way: irrigating my sinuses with salt water. This plan has worked in the past, fending off several sinus infections before they got to the point where I’d need a doctor or antibiotics.

But while the sinus problem cleared up, the feeling of not-good stuck around. My head was still pounding. Two days ago, the headache was joined by an all-over body ache and joint ache, one of my body’s usual indicators of fever. The fever stuck around most of the day Thursday, and is still with me today (lower than yesterday, but still present). Now I’m coughing and vaguely nauseous, too.

And the back of my head, fever-addled as it is, is screaming “SWINE FLU!” I’ve been obsessing over where I’ve been, who I’ve seen, who else is sick, and where I could possibly have caught the virus. Who else could I have passed it to? I’ve been reading lists of symptoms at the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control websites. I went to WebMD and entered my symptoms and looked at each of the twenty possible health issues that could be causing them (mostly viral and bacterial infections).

Part of it is that I’m not entirely in my right mind. A fever can really mess with your head! Really high fevers (between 103 and 106 degrees Fahrenheit) can cause confusion and hallucinations. Lower-grade fevers (like mine) can lead to dehydration, sweats and/or chills, weakness and fatigue, headache, and body ache — and not feeling good makes it hard to think straight sometimes.

But part of it is that the thought of a worldwide epidemic (or pandemic) is frightening to me. People have died — from complications, from not taking it seriously and getting treatment, from pushing themselves when they should have been resting, from serious secondary infections like pneumonia.

The Mayo Clinic website says to call your doctor if you have a fever lasts for more than three days. I jumped the gun a little and called the doctor today, but the earliest I could be seen (as a walk-in, taking my chances at not being seen at all if they don’t have time) is Monday. There’s an emergency clinic open tomorrow, so if I’m still feverish tomorrow, I think I’ll go over there.

It will ease my mind, as much as my body. Maybe it will turn out that I have something else entirely. Maybe I do have swine flu, but at least I’ll know and will know what to do. Sometimes, it’s not knowing for sure that makes the difference.