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Scott Sexton

It started with a tickle. And not the good kind.

We’ve all had the flu. A lot, if not most, of us in the past few months.

It happens every winter. Why else would doctors, pharmacies and public-health officials push the flu shot so hard? Not to mention employers who bear the cost out of fears of lost productivity.

So that tickle — followed in short order by intermittent, low-rumbling cough — that reared its head Sunday afternoon felt (and sounded) like a familiar milepost on a road traveled before.

Fever, body aches and chills would soon follow.

Bed rest, plenty of fluids and a whole lot of the green Nyquil would be on the menu for a day or two.

We all know the drill.Or at least we used to.

Reluctant visit

Ordinarily, I’m like a lot of you regarding doctors. If something’s not bleeding, and I mean profusely, or if my ability to walk impeded in a bad way, I’m not going.

Co-pays are high, deductibles higher, even with a liberal HSA allowance. I suspect I’m not alone in basing health care decisions partly on cost.

Plus, doctors’ offices cause anxiety.

But everything’s different now. That throat tickle just might not be the flu this go-round.

Still, why leap to a worst-case scenario?

Besides, as we all know now, even if a doctor orders a coronavirus test, a patient still might not get one.

A cough, sore throat and a fever might score the note, but that doesn’t guarantee one would be performed. There seems to be some hesitation, with still-too-scarce testing reserved for the most obviously dire situations.

Hopefully that changes and fast, but Monday morning, that was the deal. Warnings about reserving hospital beds sprouted like mushrooms Tuesday, so we’ll see. Rationing health-care is what we’re talking about now.

So a low-grade fever, coughing, night sweats and aching joints, as much as I would have liked to, couldn’t be ignored or blown off due to cheap-skatism.

As luck would have it, I already had a doctor visit scheduled Monday afternoon. Wrenched a knee last week getting out of a golf cart — the ultimate old-man injury. And when the knee wouldn’t fully straighten out, I called. Mobility issue; see above.

So I have an appointment this afternoon at 2:45? … Things changed a little …. Got a fever, cough, aches. Feels like the flu, should I even come in?

The follow-up questions came rapid-fire, and were completely predictable.

“Have you traveled lately?,” the receptionist/screener asked.

Florida a few weeks ago. Spring training game. Two days at Disneyworld. No germs there, right?

“Been around anybody who might have come into contact with coronavirus?” she asked.

Who knows? Seen the news about the lag in testing?

“Any shortness of breath, trouble breathing?,” she asked.

Well, yeah, I’m congested. But no more than usual.

“We’ll see you at 2:45. After you check in, you can wait in your car if you want.”

Things get serious

The doctors’ office, Salem Family Practice, is well-run, extremely professional and customer-service oriented. At least from what I can tell; as mentioned, I aim to be an infrequent flyer.

After answering some of the same questions as before, I was handed a mask and sent to the “sick” side of the waiting room.

It wasn’t a suggestion.

In less than 10 minutes, I was seated in an exam room. A nurse asked the same questions, and the Disney answer was less funny. The answer about the step-kid just back home from being in college up north where cases were confirmed were met with raised eyebrows.

Then the vital sign checks and testing commenced. Fever confirmed, blood pressure and pulse still low. (They always are.)

Oxygen level was normal, a tell-tale, good sign. Still not sure how that’s measured using a finger cuff, but what do I know?

The cotton swab up the nose was unpleasant and nearly drew blood.

The result — confirmed flu — came back fast. It was both expected and a relief.

“We’ve never heard of anybody having the flu and getting (Covid-19) at the same time,” the doc said. “It’d be extremely rare. Unheard of, really.”

Take Tamiflu, drink plenty of fluids and stay home for a few days. And stay out of golf carts, for crying out loud.

Bottom line: if that familiar tickle shows up, and is followed by cough and fever, call a doctor. Avoid people until you’re seen.

Who knew the flu would be good news?

ssexton@wsjournal.com

336-727-7481

@scottsextonwsj

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