Not My Doctor Filter
December 30, 2011 7:01 PM   Subscribe

Do I just have a lingering cold or could there be something else wrong with me? Also why are my tonsils gray?

tl;dr: I've had a sore throat on and off for about 3 months. It gets worse around *that* time of the month. I've had a very mild cough for the past few weeks, with very mild to no congestion. What could this be?

More details, as best as I can recall.

I first got mildly sick about 3 months ago, and I feel like this is possibly the same illness. At the time I definitely had a sore throat, and possibly had a runny nose for a day. I remember taking Ibuprofen, which I rarely do, and it was probably because of a headache/stiff neck. I saw my doctor a couple weeks in, but the only symptom I had at the time was inflamed tonsils (not even sore). I got a bit of a sore throat again not long after though, but it was mild. I think it seemed more like I was dehydrated -- I was primarily drinking coffee, and it's winter and very low humidity, plus my house is very dry. A few weeks ago, I was mildly congested, possibly with a sore throat for a couple days, and I think my neck was stiff. I've had a sore throat (mild) for a couple weeks, and I've had a very light but lingering cough for a few weeks. It's a dry cough and it often seems like I cough because my throat/lungs are dry. The main thing is a sore throat which has varied in intensity but been present for a couple weeks. The past few days my ears have been annoying (almost itchy, but not quite). I've been making efforts to drink lots of water, but my throat is parched by the time I wake up. My tonsils are swollen and gray -- not strep gray-white, but just like they are gray colored themselves. When I saw my doctor, my tonsils were gray but he said they looked fine. I know they are supposed to be red, naturally, and the gray is abnormal. This has been the symptom through all of this -- my tonsils slightly swollen and gray, even if not painful or obviously infected. I checked them again and they do not look infected, just very swollen. The lymph nodes in my neck have been swollen too. I have not been unusually tires or run-down. I generally feel like I have less energy than I used to, but that's been since a major illness 2 years ago -- my doctor says I'm recovered from that and the energy level change isn't anything to worry about. So I'm not tireder than usual. When I saw my doctor, he did ask if I'd ever had mono (I haven't) but said he didn't think I had it because I didn't have any of the symptoms besides the sore throat (he mentioned yellowing under the eyes). I have not had a fever, though I did have a night or two of chills. Also worth mentioning is that the guy I'm seeing has a similar thing where he's had a sore throat for a couple weeks, and a couple months ago has a persistent but mild cold. He's home over the holidays though, so I've only seen him twice in the last 3 weeks -- I would think that if we were re-infecting eachother that we both would have had time to recover from whatever we've got. The key thing here is that I'm not sick enough to be out of commission or even have people notice that I'm sick, except for the mild cough I've got right now.

Also a lot of people were sick towards the end of the semester, so I figured it was a combination of constantly being around sick people plus the stress of school, etc., etc. But the semester's been over for 2 weeks and I'm getting plenty of sleep (usually) and not stressed about school, so I should have gotten better.

I'm not too keen on going to the doctor, because spending $50 I don't have just to get another "well, I have no idea but let's give you some antibiotics just to see if that works" just doesn't seem worthwhile. I have some home remedies I can try -- putting a pot of water on the radiator, gargling with salt water, drinking warm water. I'd rather not take anything over the counter, though I would be willing to take Ibuprofen as kind of a last resort.

But seriously what is the deal with me? What should I be doing to make it go away once and for all? Because I'm seriously sick of being sick!
posted by DoubleLune to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
I am not a medical professional.
This sounds to me a lot like mono. Go get it checked out.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:15 PM on December 30, 2011

Why are you reluctant to take anything over the counter? Did your doctor/nurse suggest anything when you went to see them? I've had some lingering congestion/cough/sore throat things, and what has worked has been steaming the crap out of my entire respiratory system AND treating the symptoms with OTC medicines. Original formula (the stuff behind the counter) Sudafed, expectorants, cough suppressants, antihistamines- whatever you need. Your doctor or nurse can give you guidelines on what to take when.
posted by MadamM at 7:51 PM on December 30, 2011

It might be caused by post-nasal drip. Definitely try water on the radiator and gargling with salt water. Also extra vitamin C. I would also try Sudafed--the kind you have to get from the pharmacist. There is nothing wrong with taking OTC remedies! When I had something similar the nurse practitioner told me to take Sudafed, along with Benadryl at night. It cleared everything up within a week. She also said a major symptom of mono is if the lymph nodes on the back of your neck are sore. I didn't know there were any there, but that's what she said!

I think you should try OTC and home remedies for a week and then go back to the doctor.
posted by apricot at 7:58 PM on December 30, 2011

It does sound like it may be mono, but if it is, there's no treatment except what you're already doing, so I don't think that consideration necessitates another trip to the doctor, unless you just want to make sure that is the diagnosis and not something else. I would just add though that jaundice is a less common symptom of mono and not required for the diagnosis. But a gray membrane over the tonsils is a known symptom of tonsillitis from mononucleosis.

Ibuprofen is pretty good for sore throat or any other sore part of the body, but if I were going to choose one OTC med for sore throat, I'd use the Chloraseptic spray or Ricola/Halls drops. They have topical anesthetics in them like benzocaine, or sometimes menthol/eucalyptus. I find these helpful for sore throats and they taste better than salt water. IANYD.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:07 PM on December 30, 2011

I had mono for over two months, through visits to an ENT and a doctor at my HMO, before I could even have a University Health Services doctor give me a test.

I'm not saying you have mono, but between the duration and the weird tonsil thing, you need to get a second opinion and insist on a test.
posted by Madamina at 8:15 PM on December 30, 2011

Datapoint: Maybe you pay $100 or whatever to have a doc tell you 'Yeah, you've got X', but that also means you might be able to get out of work. Depending on what you do for a living, working with mono is a BAD THING. And if not getting OUT of work, maybe less/different responsibility until you're fully healthy again.

If you're only going to classes, the same thing applies. Some profs will cut you some slack if you're run down with Plague X. (Others will tell you to nut up and deal, but that's college life for you.) University health services might have some resources for you too if you have a diagnosis.
posted by Heretical at 2:54 AM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Why are you reluctant to take anything over the counter? Did your doctor/nurse suggest anything when you went to see them?

What I really meant was I prefer not to take drugs. I'll take cough medicine, cough drops, throat sprays and homeopathic remedies, but I stay away from stuff like Sudafed. When I saw my doc, he prescribed antibiotics -- but I only had the swollen tonsils, no other symptoms.

I'll get some cough drops or throat spray. Classes don't start for another week, and I'm going to a new school, so I still have to figure out how the health center works.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:35 AM on December 31, 2011

If you are enrolled in classes you are probably eligible to go to your school's health center now. Do you live nearby? Give them a call. It will be a lot busier once classes start, plus when all the other students come back they'll bring who knows what germs. You don't what to expose yourself to that when you're already sick!
posted by apricot at 7:12 AM on December 31, 2011

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