There’s No Danger Like Self-Diagnosis

Since my only-child upbringing exhausted any need for attention a decade ago, I’m not usually one to ask for cheap pity. In the hope that I might spare others such a harrowing fate, though, I’ll share my story: Last weekend, I sustained an injury. A serious one. The kind that makes you beg mercy from whatever cruel, senseless higher power has left you with insomnia and a burning red rash (on the shoulder, sicko).

Though I am no doctor, I’m reasonably sure I know where the problem started. After spending a rare Saturday in a tank top under the sun, I later awoke with a sore shoulder. Having been born — as some culturally insensitive individuals call my kind — a “ginger,” I’m no stranger to the phenomenon of the sunburn. But I was also certain my pus-covered shoulder was no mere sunburn. Sunburns don’t keep you up all night, and they definitely don’t ooze deadly fluids.

Twenty minutes of WebMD.com research later, I arrived at an alarming self-diagnosis that did little to alleviate my fears. Apparently, if one remains under the sun for an extended period of time without any protection, he becomes subject to something called “sun poisoning” — a term I still do not entirely understand, but nevertheless frightened me into making good on the site’s suggestion to consult a doctor.

In what must have been a personal record, I arrived at Student Health a full 10 minutes before it opened. There I stood in line behind an assembly of snifflers and wheezers. God, I thought, What a luxury to have such a treatable, obvious condition as a common cold.

Once the doors opened, it was a mad dash to the urgent-care receptionist, but I managed to fill out the requisite form with lightning precision. “Severe rash on shoulder,” I reported, “Since Saturday.” I resisted the urge to underline for dramatic effect. The statement spoke for itself.

Upon rehashing the salient details of my story to the doctor — overexposure to the sun; insomnia; enormous, pus-filled welts — I was asked to kindly remove my shirt so that “we” could have a better look.

After a thorough 10-second examination, the good doctor had arrived at his diagnosis: It was, in strict medical terminology, a … sunburn. Or, more specifically, a blistering sunburn — which would account for the menacing pockets of air lining my shoulder.

We sat in awkward silence as the doctor tried his best not to make light of my hysteria, typing up a two-page treatment plan with such eye-opening recommendations as “wear longer shirts, use hats and apply sunscreen.”

When — in a final attempt at proving my sensibility — I asserted that I’d never suffered such a painful reaction to the sun, the doctor mentioned that such inexperience was probably symptomatic of a larger, graver life circumstance: “generally good parenting.”

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for slathering me in sunscreen every day of elementary school. Maybe next time, though, I’ll wait another day or two before braving the doctor’s office. I’d hate for my next diagnosis to be hypochondria.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal