Ask Dr. Pat · Health

Vanity Causes a Spring Cold

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

The Husband had a mid-March birthday and I arranged a celebration with his family who live only an hour or so away by plane.  I chose a swanky new restaurant for the party in a revitalized part of a once thriving industrial city that is becoming more revived each season.  The transformation in this city is coming from out of town younger residents. It is also coming from more mature people who need lower overhead costs to continue their careers or to reinvent themselves after those careers have ended and they still need and want to work. They are  artists, business men and women and entrepreneurs who believe that a creative mix of people, energy, ideas, and new ventures will restore this once thriving city. This mid-western city has also become a mecca for foodies, so it is a great destination for a party.

I arranged the day so that I could have my hair done before noon then travel with only a garment bag containing party clothes. The plan was fly in, have dinner and fly out so that we could celebrate with our children back at home the next day. I traveled so light that I forgot jewelry and had to shop in the airport terminal for something sparkly and fake.

I did not take any of my usual precautions when flying since this was such a quick trip. No Borelium, no Purell, no Clorox, no gloves, and no mask. I consciously chose not to wear a mask so that I wouldn’t mess up my hair.  The party was a success and The Husband was thrilled to be with his family for his birthday.

That flight was Friday and by the following Wednesday I knew I was dealing with the start of a nasty spring cold.  We all know this feeling: stuffy nose, vague fatigue, scratchy throat.  I did wear a mask at work that day because a doctor who shares her viruses with her patients is  violating some kind of sacred oath.  The next day was no day for this sick doctor to be around anyone except the long suffering Asta, my devoted Airedale. I went for a nasal swab to make sure I didn’t have the flu: negative test.  I had no fever but I was certainly sick. Acute rhinosinusitis (runny nose and full sinus cavities) with billions of viruses in place. It was a 10 out of 10 in terms of severity.  The Husband wisely slept in another room for the next three nights.  Eli Zabar’s chicken soup, Nasonex, humidifier, salt water gargling—I did it all and still the viruses multiplied and moved down to the throat with acute pharyngitis (sore throat). Eventually, rest, no talking, Vitamin C and mother time allowed my immune system to fight this respiratory infection successfully.

Six days later, I was well enough to return to work without a mask.  But the fatigue and sequelae of this upper respiratory infection persisted for another week.

It will be hard, but I forswear vanity over health henceforth.  There is no plane ride with other people on board that is so short that the specter of infection is negligible. I will return to being the odd woman with the gloves, Clorox, Purell, Borelium, and the N95 mask.  Better that than two weeks of a nasty spring cold.

Stay healthy,

Dr. Pat


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  • Abigail congdon April 9, 2018 at 7:42 am

    I am sorry you got sick Pat! I think even if everyone on th flight is in Perfect Health, the planes themselves are so encrusted with bacteria and other crud that its like immersing yourself in a germ factory. Then there’s the dirty air being recycled, probably through dirty filters. A sad reality, as travel adds so much to our lives!
    Be well and enjoy this late spring!