Grab bag of symptoms
October 3, 2005 11:53 PM   Subscribe

Under the weather...

For the last week and three days, I've been slowly getting over a nasty bout of something or other.

I've had fever, chills, headaches and an excrutiatingly painful canker sore that is very slow in healing. When I sleep now, I often wake up in a cold sweat. If a breeze comes in, my body goes into a shivering spell. Muscle aches and pains have accompanied headaches that have spread from my forehead to my neck, but these have largely gone away with some ibuprofen and sinus medicine.

It seems like my body's thermometer is still a little off-kilter, but the Mayo Clinic's explanation of canker sores suggests by omission that I have something serious if a sore is accompanied by a fever.

Is this something I should worry about or just let my body heal from?

I've also tried using a painkiller to numb the pain of this *(%$& mouth sore, but it seems to irritate the sore to the point where it gets larger and the pain worsens once the novocaine wears off. Is this normal? Is there anything I can do to hasten healing that genuinely works?
posted by Rothko to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've been to the doctor for canker sores (multiple, huge, gaping, excruciatingly painful) and they've always given me some variation of "you're out of luck." I got some weird mouth wash once from one of the Kaiser Permanente doctors that seemed to help (it had a goofy name, had benadryl and some other stuff in it, had a short shelf life, and I got the feeling it was at least part folk remedy).

I have been given viscous lidocane, which helps tremendously -- for about 10 minutes. Brushing my teeth, as painful as it is, helps if done about 10 times a day. Frequently using Listerene makes them ache less generally.

I generally get canker sores whenever I accidentally bite my cheek -- the resulting minor wound always turns into a canker sore, so avoiding that is the best way to not get them.

I don't know if an accompanying fever is serious or not. Sounds like you have the flu, but I often get canker sores to accompany colds and flus (or dental work that hurts my cheeks and gums). I generally go months without any, and then will get very many for a few weeks.

(I've been told, but have never bothered to check up upon, that canker sores are a form of herpes. Thus to avoid oral sex when they are present).

But if you are not really on the mend tomorrow, I'd go to the doctor just to be on the safe side. 10 days is a fairly long time to be sick, and it'd be better to be safe than sorry.
posted by teece at 12:10 AM on October 4, 2005

My personal rule is that anything which doesn't go away in 4 or 5 days is doctor material. You have some strange symptoms beyond a simple cold, too. I'd say you should get checked out. You might have acquired a virus or some other nasty thing that would be better dealt with now than later, and which would be easier to diagnose and treat now.

I'm sure some jackass will make you feel bad for even asking, but I know what you mean about not being sure it's doctor time yet. We all have to make that call. In your case, based on what you've said, I think you should see someone unless it's absolutely prohibitively expensive.

Feel better soon!
posted by scarabic at 12:11 AM on October 4, 2005

I forgot to add: for me, canker sores are very slow healing in general. A week, at minimum. Two weeks, more lilkely. Maybe longer.

But a flu for me rarely lasts 10 days. That would make me a little bit worried. It's still probably nothing, but it could be something that might kill you. Thus, hie thee to the doctor.
posted by teece at 12:46 AM on October 4, 2005

Canker sores aren't herpes, teece must be thinking of cold sores. I had a canker sore (my first and only) that took six weeks to completely disappear. My doctor essentially shrugged and told me to grin and bear it, but the co-pay was worth the peace of mind.
posted by cali at 1:27 AM on October 4, 2005

teece, flu can quite easily last two weeks, in my experience. Can't do any harm going to the doctor, though, if your symptoms are getting worse.
posted by altolinguistic at 1:38 AM on October 4, 2005

Multi-day fever, chills and muscle aches only happened to me once. It was Mono (the critical self-diagnostic feature is a cankerous type infection at the back of the mouth/tonsil area). Flu and colds tend to get past the fever stage quicker for me.

Aspergum helps with apthous ulcers. It is the only thing I found that really worked. Snacking regularly or chewing gum also helps because the saliva deadens the pain somehow.
posted by srboisvert at 5:34 AM on October 4, 2005

Rinsing with peroxide, while incredibly nasty-tasting, helps the canker sore heal faster. Using a styptic pencil on the canker sore hurts like a *%&% at the time, but makes it heal faster.

(There don't seem to be any pleasant remedies to make the buggers heal faster.)
posted by desuetude at 6:11 AM on October 4, 2005

I second viscous lidocaine to soothe the pain from a canker sore. I've used it many times. My doctor also gave me ulcer medication once that I'd swish in my mouth--I can't remember the name, but if you go to your doc they would know.
posted by jdl at 6:14 AM on October 4, 2005

Everyone has said pretty much what I would say about the general illness, but for canker sores: Rembrandt toothpaste (they make a canker-sore reducing type). My sister, who suffered from almost chronic canker sores, uses only this toothpaste and has basically eliminated them. So, use that for the duration. And feel better soon!
posted by CiaoMela at 6:21 AM on October 4, 2005

I tend to get canker sores when I ingest a huge amount of vitamins -- if I go anywhere with fresh mangos, I am guaranteed to drink gallons of mango juice.

To be honest, I put salt on the sore. It hurts. It really, really hurts. But it seems to speed up the healing process.
posted by hummus at 6:48 AM on October 4, 2005

When's the last time you had an STD test?
posted by kyle at 7:03 AM on October 4, 2005

For canker sores, I use a product you can get at the drugstore called Zilactin. It stings when you put it on, but then it numbs the pain and forms a plasticky barrier over the sore, which seems to speed healing a lot. Check it out. And see your doctor about the rest of the stuff.
posted by bonheur at 7:06 AM on October 4, 2005

There are very VERY serious illnesses that start out like this. Definitely see a doctor.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:07 AM on October 4, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the great advice. I had pain where my spleen is located, so the mono suggestion is (unfortunately) looking more probable, especially since a friend of mine had it two months ago. I think I'd better see a doc; thanks again.
posted by Rothko at 8:42 AM on October 4, 2005

Canker sores are definatrely not herpes, although I have read some speculation that a herpes outbreak can also set off the appearance of them just based on stress on the body.

When I have had a really painful one I have sucked on advil tablets. Not the greatest of solutions but it helped.
posted by phearlez at 9:05 AM on October 4, 2005

Mono? Eh... IANAD, but my spidey-sense doesn't think mono.

Do you have a mild case of West Nile?
posted by unixrat at 9:50 AM on October 4, 2005

Also: the Amino Acid L-Lysine helps resolve canker sores.
posted by daver at 10:06 AM on October 4, 2005

A great trick for canker sores or toothaches is to apply any kind of antibiotic directly(if it is in a capsule, break it open and apply the power; likewise crush tablet form to powder.). It works very quickly.
posted by JohnR at 10:36 AM on October 4, 2005

Your description suggests that this isn't just a canker sore.

In general non-remitting fevers, especially in the setting of some kind of visible lesion, are medically concerning. I can rattle off a long list of possible causes from the relatively benign to the potentially life threatening, so there's no point in playing a guessing game over the net on this one. Go get looked over by a doctor.

And while some of the advice above might yield you some symptomatic relief, things like tylenol and viscous lidocaine may only mask the problem as it continues to progress. Do not delay in seeing a professional simply because you may have found a temporary way to control the pain.
posted by drpynchon at 11:28 AM on October 4, 2005

Thanks for that phearlez, a cursory google of med. lit. indicates that that is correct. Interestingly, it was a doctor that told me that canker sores were a form of herpes. For whatever reason, I did not believe she knew what she was talking about. That seems to be correct.

I guess she may have just assumed that they could have been cold sores, and that a non-doc couldn't differentiate the two, so picked the worse of the two to play it safe.
posted by teece at 12:21 PM on October 4, 2005

Agree with drpynchon. Get to a doctor.

For once and for all, people:

Canker sores : generally inside the mouth.
Cold sores: generally around the mouth, near the lips.

Canker sores: unknown cause, may be a streptococcus or a virus. Can be induced by trauma or stress. Lots of remedies, different ones work for different people. The only one I've ever found to work is topical pastes of triamcinolone. YMMV.

Cold sores: definitely herpes, usually HSV1 (oral), sometimes HSV2 (genital). Can be induced by immunosuppression, stress. Acyclovir can shorten their duration.
posted by gramcracker at 12:50 PM on October 4, 2005

Except when cold sores are in the mouth. Primary (first) infection of oral herpes can involve cold sores outside and/or inside the mouth, and a fever. From pictures I've seen it can be very hard to distinguish a cold sore from a canker sore when they're inside the mouth. I am not a doctor, but not all doctors know the difference between cold and canker sores, so if I were you I'd ask for a test unless you or the doc are sure. The earlier you treat a primary infection, so the literature that I've seen goes, the fewer and less severe will be future outbreaks.
posted by lorrer at 3:30 PM on October 4, 2005

Thanks to those who offered remedies... I hit my tonsil with my toothbrush last week, and have the most debilitating canker sore on the back of my throat. I can't swallow. I'm going to Walgreens at break to get some zilactin, lysine, and peroxide.
posted by santiagogo at 6:51 AM on October 31, 2005

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