Sunday, July 10, 2011

Before it hits the fan

*Oregon Trail tune*
So at the end of June I was wiped out for a few days with dysentery. I was pretty sure that the last case of an American having dysentery was on the Oregon trail (computer or real version). I don’t think that anyone needs details of the symptoms but suffice it to say that they were severe. Since I was at the time sharing a room with some American teens, they of course had to thrown in their medical advice. This would be a good time to put a disclaimer that you should probably not take any medical advice given by teenagers in general. So the first thing they said was that I should take azythromycin (a strong antibiotic used for respiratory infections like pneumonia or STDs). Next they tried to give me Imodium multiple times. Where there are a time and place for both of these medicines, neither are advisable treatments for dysentery.

The day after I started treatment (as recommended by my doctor and unrelated to what the teenagers suggested) I was feeling much better! I went to meet up with some friends who are working on a Infectious Disease research team. Their first thought was to obtain samples to prove what caused all my symptoms. When I mentioned the teenagers’ advice they also went on a rant against Imodium. Apparently it works very well for preventing the colon from clearing itself out. The problem comes in with two different problems. The first is that most things that cause diarrhea need to be removed from the body and diarrhea is a natural reaction to do this quickly. The next is that with dysentery, the volume excreted can be more than most other cases. If you take Imodium with a case of dysentery, it still works in blocking you up, but this does nothing for the cause of the illness. This means that your colon fills up instead of being able to empty itself. This keeps the infection in your body and allows it to multiply. It also means that with a very large volume that there is a slight chance of the colon actually rupturing…on the inside…which here would be a death sentence. Basically, talk to a doctor when you are sick and ignore what unqualified people tell you.

In the many months that I haven't lived in American society, my discussion of such topics becomes more and more frequent and less delicate. Comments about the state of our digestive system are normal in most conversations and a topic during meals. I'm not sure how the transition back into a more sensitive society will go but I can ensure that I will cause some raised eyebrows for quite a while after returning. 5 more months and I'll be able to see some of your eyebrows go up!