Feel like I was hit by a virus truck
May 24, 2015 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Super weird (for me) constellation of symptoms... what is going on?

YANMD, but I made an appointment with my doctor... they can get me in in one month. *sigh* Trying to figure out if this is something I should take to urgent care or not.

About a week ago, I stayed in the dorms at my friend's college for his graduation. On the way home I started feeling extremely tired and malaise-y, but chalked it up to waking up early and a long celebratory weekend (and a night sleeping on a crappy dorm bed in a cold damp room). However, the next day at work I started getting a pressure headache-- the kind I usually have with allergies, but I treat my allergies now-- and it was hard to keep looking at my computer screen, like I was sensitivite to the light. When I put my backpack on at the end of the day, I just about took a leap when it touched a super tender area of skin on my back between my shoulder blades-- felt like there was something in my clothes poking me. Later this sensitivity turned into more a burning soreness down my spine and back, with sore muscles in my neck and shoulders. Nothing is acute now, just general soreness and malaise.

My head still hurts vaguely and feels very foggy, and I have an on-and-off ringing in my ears. I've been sleeping in over the holiday weekend, but every day around 4-5pm I am knocked out. In fact, I just had to some home from relaxing and reading in a cafe because I was so exhausted I just needed to put my pyjamas on and lie down.

On the first few days my face felt hot and my temperature was slightly elevated-- about 98.7, when I'm usually around 97.6 (my body temp has been low-ish since I got my Mirena IUD, I have no idea why). I just took my temperature today and I was 97.2, which seems quite low. I have absolutely no idea what's going on-- I feel like I have the flu, except I have no cough or sneeze. My sinuses feel maybe a little bit mucousy, like the stickly sluggish kind when you have a cold/flu, but I had the flu vaccine and it doesn't feel particularly like I'm actually ill. Every now and then I get a kind of shivery chill, like I'm coming down with something, or like a fever will come, but so far it hasn't.

Trying to think of any other relevant circumstances but can't really-- I haven't spent any time in the woods or anywhere weird, haven't done anything out of the ordinary lately except maybe been getting less sleep than usual (until this weekend, when I've been sleeping for 9-10 hours a day). I live in a city so there are lots of germs and rodents and disgusting stuff around. But a diagnosis of "modern urban dysphoria" is not very helpful.

Do these symptoms make any sense? Should I try to get in to the doctor sooner? I have a feeling that in a month from now, my appointment will be pretty irrelevant. Normally if things were really weird I'd get in ASAP, but I don't think I should go to the ER without any acute symptoms (severe headache, high fever, etc.). Right now looking at my laptop, it feels like it's the brightest thing I've ever stared at (in a hypnotizing way, not a painful way), but that's as "severe" as my symptoms are getting at the moment. My headache is making me a bit nauseated as of today. I had ear blockage and light sensitivity for about a week before the axe fell and I started feeling exhausted. Weird taste in my mouth... but generally, just feel exhausted, brain foggy, and off, with crappy hearing and mild headache in my forehead and between my eyes.
posted by easter queen to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
Best answer: Yes, see a doctor sooner. Call the office, ask to speak with a nurse, explain all this, anf they will squeeze you in. Or go see one of those 24/7 walk-in clinics. Don't wait a whole month. And don't expect a reliable diagnosis here.
posted by beagle at 3:13 PM on May 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I find that the peace of mind that I get from a doctor saying "It's X, it's been going around, you'll feel like shit for another couple of days, come back if it gets worse" is worth the co-pay.
posted by Etrigan at 3:17 PM on May 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is normally how I feel when I'm either about to get sick or I'm fighting off something and my immune system is running on Expert Mode. If it's full-blown-spring where you are, you might be tiptoeing between hayfever and sinus infection.

I felt that way for 4-5 days this week, though I had some tedious gastro symptoms too and at one point realized I was dehydrated and felt better after doubling up on water. I needed a couple of 10-hour nights with day naps (I never nap unless I'm sick). I had a couple rounds of fever-aches without any fever. I skimmed the edge of migraine aura a couple of times. But this is all what almost-getting-sick is like, for my body. You don't say if anything gets better or worse if you take an antihistamine or ibuprofen or whatever, so if you haven't tried those things they might provide useful data for you to make a more specific decision from.

In any case, you feel crappy. You don't have any dangerous symptoms at this point so it would be inappropriate to go to the ER, but if you want to go to urgent care you can. I don't ever bother making an actual doctor's appointment for this kind of thing because it's always a month before they can see me, I just go straight to a walk-in clinic.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:18 PM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

These are acute symptoms, not "wait a month to see a doctor" symptoms. I'd go to urgent care. What you describe partially sounds like bacterial meningitis to me -- light sensitivity, foggy mental state, headache, fever, stiff neck. IANAD.
posted by axiom at 3:18 PM on May 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yes, meningitis was my first thought as well. Do you have a rash at all? If so, see if it fades when pressed with a glass -- not fading is a characteristic sign of meningitis and you should go to urgent care. If you have no rash, you should go to urgent care anyway.

Feel better soon!
posted by daisyk at 3:23 PM on May 24, 2015

Actually, if you develop a rash you should go to the emergency room.
posted by daisyk at 3:23 PM on May 24, 2015

Sounds like some form of meningitis:
The most common symptoms of meningitis are headache and neck stiffness associated with fever, confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light (photophobia) or loud noises (phonophobia). Children often exhibit only nonspecific symptoms, such as irritability and drowsiness. If a rash is present, it may indicate a particular cause of meningitis; for instance, meningitis caused by meningococcal bacteria may be accompanied by a characteristic rash.[2][5]

A lumbar puncture diagnoses or excludes meningitis. A needle is inserted into the spinal canal to extract a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), that envelops the brain and spinal cord. The CSF is examined in a medical laboratory.[4] The first treatment in acute meningitis consists of promptly administered antibiotics and sometimes antiviral drugs. Corticosteroids can also be used to prevent complications from excessive inflammation.[4][5] Meningitis can lead to serious long-term consequences such as deafness, epilepsy, hydrocephalus and cognitive deficits, especially if not treated quickly.[2][5] Some forms of meningitis (such as those associated with meningococci, Haemophilus influenzae type B, pneumococci or mumps virus infections) may be prevented by immunization.[2] In 2013 meningitis resulted in 303,000 deaths – down from 464,000 deaths in 1990.[6]
Which is a true medical emergency.

Go to the ER.
posted by jamjam at 3:26 PM on May 24, 2015

Go to the doctor. Tonight. ER if you have to.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:36 PM on May 24, 2015

Bacterial meningitis without fever is pretty rare, so I wouldn't panic, but new neurological symptoms are well worth an urgent care trip.
posted by gingerest at 3:46 PM on May 24, 2015

If you've been taking Tylenol or ibuprofen or Aleve or anything, don't trust the thermometer for your temperature. If it's normal-for-you after you've taken anything containing an over-the-counter pain reliever, you are probably actually running a low-grade fever. I didn't realize this for years, like, I knew something vague about them maybe making a fever better, but I didn't think about the impact it would have on your actual reported temperature. Make sure whoever you see knows exactly what you're taking, because it can make a difference to diagnosis.
posted by Sequence at 4:53 PM on May 24, 2015

College dorms are notorious for meningitis, and it's a really serious disease if not caught early. I'd get this checked out today.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 5:44 PM on May 24, 2015

light sensitivity, foggy mental state, headache, fever, stiff neck

All of these, except the fever, could also come into play with migraine with aura or extreme tension headaches. My doctor was actually very worried I had meningitis once during an episode that was, in retrospect, clearly a migraine.

I'd been having migraines since I was a teen, getting more frequent through my 20s, but didn't get a diagnosis until my 30s.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:50 PM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This sounds very unlikely to be meningitis. It sounds like a viral syndrome or flu-like illness, although I'm not your doctor and this isn't medical advice, but these aren't weird symptoms, they're very common symptoms that are caused by a bunch of different viruses. Sometimes can be caused by things like Lyme or mono.

If you can't get in with your doctor in a reasonable amount of time (i.e. a day or two, which most doctors are supposed to be able to accommodate an urgent appointment in), then this would be perfectly reasonable to go to urgent care for.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:58 PM on May 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Since people are really jumping on the meningitis wagon, I'd like to point out that the symptoms have been going on for a week already and are described as a vague headache with no fever, and "I don't feel particularly ill".

Bacterial meningitis is a very serious illness that can kill you within a day or two. This doesn't even sound as bad as influenza, which makes you feel like crap but is usually not serious. I definitely agree this person should see a physician but there's nothing here to say "ER now!"
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:03 PM on May 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

i don't know where you're at, but over here in the tropics in combination with aedes mosquitoes being carriers for dengue fever, it sounds something similar to that. might as well ask for a blood test, see if you have a depressed platelet count or something.
posted by cendawanita at 9:42 PM on May 24, 2015

Best answer: I had very similar symptoms for a week a few years back and my doctor said it was my body fighting off a virus. It did a good job in that I never got a full-blown illness but I felt exhausted for a whole week and could barely get out of bed even though I didn't really have any symptoms. Hopefully that's all it is for you.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:32 AM on May 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think t+b has good advice. That said, this:
When I put my backpack on at the end of the day, I just about took a leap when it touched a super tender area of skin on my back between my shoulder blades-- felt like there was something in my clothes poking me. Later this sensitivity turned into more a burning soreness down my spine and back, with sore muscles in my neck and shoulders. Nothing is acute now, just general soreness and malaise.
reminded me of descriptions I've heard of fibromyalgia. That's a long-term condition, though, so only worth considering bringing up to your doctor if this persists for months.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:02 PM on May 25, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I called my doctor who also suspected meningitis, and asked me to go to the ER just in case. It was a long night but it was determined that I just had a crappy migraine and probably some prodrome flu symptoms, and I feel better for checking with my doctor and following her instructions. Thanks for your concern and help!
posted by easter queen at 8:02 PM on May 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

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