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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Horses, not zebras... please!

One of the nuggets of advice drilled into medical students as they wade into the potentially treacherous waters of becoming diagnosticians, is that when you hear hoofbeats and winnying, think horses... not zebras. The point being that if a simple answer will fit the symptoms, don't be tempted by a more exotic answer.

Too bad friends don't get this advice as part of their social training.

I've been home for two days with what my family physician feels confident is probably a stomach virus. At first I was leaning more towards food poisoning, but it turns out I didn't go to medical school... so after the second day I was inclined to agree with the pro's diagnosis.

I love my friends, but a few of them are prone to a bit of alarmism which can spill over into 'zebra hunting'.

One of my friends heard that I was home sick with nausea and a few other symptoms which I'll spare you (don't thank me...), and decided it would be a good idea to tell me that this might also point to a parasite.

After spending much of the past 48 hours in the smallest room in my house (thank G-d for the iPad and wifi), I really didn't need to hear that.

So here's a little advice for all you home diagnosticians who have been watching too many medical dramas on TV for your own good: I know you mean well, but please let your friends spend a few days in the stable with their horses before you try taking them zebra hunting on the Serengeti.

Posted by David Bogner on September 15, 2010 | Permalink

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Refuah Shelema! Hope you feel better soon!
Shana tova!

Posted by: Nir in London | Sep 16, 2010 12:58:29 AM

oooh that sucks so sorry. hope you feel better soon!

Posted by: Leah Caruso | Sep 16, 2010 1:36:15 AM

I don't want to alarm you, but I think you're pregnant.

Posted by: Tanya | Sep 16, 2010 1:43:57 AM

I have a co-worker who spends about half her day looking up symptoms on line and telling us what she thinks she has now. The worse hypochondriac I've seen. Granted, she does have some health issues, but if she had all the problems she claims she has, she'd be the subject of a scientific investigation.

Posted by: JDMDad | Sep 16, 2010 2:40:53 AM

On the other hand, out on the Serengeti, hoofbeats usually do indicate the presence of zebras. Refuah shleimah and Gmar hatima tova.

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Sep 16, 2010 9:00:47 AM

They say the US legal system is suffering from a similar problem: Juries watch CSI so much that expect some scientific razzle-dazzle to impress them before they convict.

Posted by: Nachum | Sep 16, 2010 9:55:27 AM

Oh that's terrible! You poor thing. Bucket loads of sympathy whatever the ailment is. Get better soon.

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Sep 16, 2010 12:52:08 PM

Oh that's terrible! You poor thing. Bucket loads of sympathy whatever the ailment is. Get better soon.

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Sep 16, 2010 12:52:08 PM

Refua Sheleima! Hope you feel better by Friday, that will NOT be a fun Yom Kippur

Posted by: SaraK | Sep 16, 2010 4:37:17 PM

Tanya beat me to it.

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | Sep 16, 2010 6:30:44 PM

"If a simple answer will fit the symptoms, don't be tempted by a more exotic answer."

This is the medical professional's restatement of the Ockham's Razor principle: the simplest explanation of a phenomenon is usually the best.

A refuah sheleimah to you - a complete (and speedy) recovery. A stomach virus right before Yom Kippur is not fun, but better before than during, eh?

Oh, and BTW - g'mar chatima tovah for you and yours.

Posted by: Elisson | Sep 17, 2010 12:08:55 AM

My medical background is limited to having watched 209 hours of Quincy so you know what I think. ;) Refuah Shleimah.

Posted by: Jack | Sep 17, 2010 12:41:56 AM

.. and now we know how you happened upon XKCD? :-)

Gmar Tov.

Posted by: J. | Sep 19, 2010 9:20:33 AM

but are you sure you don't have ....???
I always guess rotovirus. Then you can pretend you've gotten that one out of the way ;)

Posted by: LeahGG | Sep 19, 2010 11:44:18 PM

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