Monday, November 05, 2001

Born to run

This may be the first cold-and-flu season on record in which parents are happy when their kids get runny noses, and even appreciate sniffling themselves. Sure, nasal discharge is unsightly, and the sound of constant snortling is annoying, and it's certainly a sign that the snifflers are in some way unwell. But at least they don't have anthrax.

That's the word from doctors who are trying to sort out the difference between the symptoms of inhalation anthrax and the more common, less deadly flu. Most of the signs and symptoms are the same, except for this: Anthrax victims don't get runny noses. An incessant need for tissues indicates a likelihood of weeks of cold-and-flu misery, not sudden death.

We've been sniffling a lot around my house lately, and I was worried. You hear so much about people with a couple of cold symptoms and then -- poof! -- they're a headline. I wonder if the postman is delivering death to my house, and I wonder if our snuffy noses tell the tale. It's nice to put those worries to rest.

Now, if only medical science would reveal that the sort of perpetual sinus blockage I've had since approximately 1988 effectively bars any harmful spores or bacterium from entering my respiratory system, and I'll really rest easy.

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