Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I'm never sick, so when I awoke yesterday with a terrible sore throat and lay freezing cold beneath a heap of blankets, unable to face any of the work-related tasks I had planned for the day, I wasn't sure quite what to make of my situation. If I wasn't sick, what could this be? Was I just MALINGERING?

I love this word: "malingering." I love that there is a word that means "to pretend or exaggerate illness, esp to avoid work." I love that so many people are tempted to do this that a word was coined just to describe this particular strategy of work avoidance.

I went to Kroger and bought a thermometer: a fairly disappointing one, I must say, as it promised to give me a result in 9 seconds and promised to have an actual alarm sound a warning if the temperature was over a certain point, and it did neither of these things. But it did say that my temperature was 101.4 That is not the temperature of a malingerer!

I made a doctor's appointment for later in the day, but when I got there, the thermometer there said I had no fever at all. How could this be? I have to say I doubted their thermometer more than I doubted mine. But the kindly physician did accept my self-diagnosis of strep without even ordering a throat culture. I felt so ill as I waited in line to get my antibiotics prescription filled that I thought I might faint away upon the floor.

It turns out that it was strep, or at least that within an hour of starting the antibiotics, all my symptoms were gone. I slept for 13 blissful hours and awoke ready to face a full and busy day of teaching, meetings, evening reading group. So I WAS sick, after all. Unless - would the symptoms have disappeared anyway, even without the medication? Could it be that all I needed was one day of . . . malingering?


  1. I'm glad you're feeling better! I'm sure you were *not* malingering -- it's good to have a day of rest when you're sick.

  2. When a person really is sick, their temperature will fluctuate several degrees throughout the day, so having a high temperature in the morning and a lower temperature at the doctor's office isn't evidence that you aren't really sick nor that you have a bad thermometer.

    When I recently had strep throat exactly the same thing happened to me: high temperature at home in the morning and lower temperature at the doctor's office. I also found the antibiotics worked super fast.

    On the other hand, I'll bet the placebo effect is especially effective at curing malingering.

  3. Excellent observations, Scott! The doctor I saw did say that temperature fluctuations were common with strep. But he also gave me non-malingering credit for my flushed cheeks, not knowing that I have rosy cheeks all the time. In any case, it's great to be well again. :)