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November 27, 2012

Sick Is the New Black


Photo Credit: Tom Hines

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This mentality rings true for a lot of women. "I tend to think between work, taking care of my house, making sure my 2-year-old is all set, the nanny, the bills, all that stuff — that I've run myself ragged to the point of making myself really, really vulnerable to something," a New York-based brand development manager confesses. "It's why when my husband gets sick, I think he only has a cold and is being a big baby. But when I get sick, I'm gravely concerned it's life-threatening, like cancer. The underlying philosophy is that I'm working myself to death, I guess."

The problem is that hitting up the doctor for every sore throat and stomachache won't make you any healthier. In fact, all those unnecessary visits could actually do more harm than good. "A substantial body of research has shown that medical care can be the source of illness — infections acquired as a result of exposure to a health-care setting, toxic effects of prescriptions, and complications from procedures," warns Dr. Thomas Glass, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In fact, studies have estimated that one-quarter to one-third of all illnesses are iatrogenic — meaning they were inadvertently contracted while a patient was getting medical treatment. (Lord knows how many germy snivelers have fingered that dog-eared copy of Reader's Digest before you.)

So what should you do when you feel like you're coming down with something? For starters, take a deep breath — it's almost certainly a run-of-the-mill thing and not some news-making amoeba. Usually the standard course of action for a cold, the flu, or a virus is straight out of the Mother Knows Best manual: Sleep more, stock up on some chicken soup, and do the world a favor by covering your mouth when you cough. If you're not better in a few days, go see your doctor. But note to self: Bring your own magazine.

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