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The Hypochondriac's Handbook

The Hypochondriac's Handbook

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by Wendy Marston

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Feeling good? Are you sure? This hilarious guide—a sequel to the best-selling Paranoid's Pocket Guide—is guaranteed to make you wonder. With hundreds of symptoms to watch for and in-depth information on the latest germ mutations, this compendium offers compelling proof that there is always something to worry about, even if you seem to be


Feeling good? Are you sure? This hilarious guide—a sequel to the best-selling Paranoid's Pocket Guide—is guaranteed to make you wonder. With hundreds of symptoms to watch for and in-depth information on the latest germ mutations, this compendium offers compelling proof that there is always something to worry about, even if you seem to be in perfect shape. A must-have for today's health-conscious individual, it also reveals worrisome facts about doctors and insurance companies. It's packed with black-and-white photos documenting everyday items that can menace your health—often seemingly "harmless" items such as a pencil or a water fountain. Fortunately, this book will make you laugh, which releases endorphins and promotes health—for the moment. For soundness of body and mind, read the Hypochondriac's Handbook. Better safe than sorry!

Product Details

Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date:
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Barnes & Noble
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A tapeworm can grow 20 centimeters a day in your belly. You probably won't lose any weight: they don't eat that much. More than half of the northern pike living in U.S. rivers and lakes harbor tapeworms.


30% of Americans do n ot wash their hands after using a public bathroom (though 9 out of 10 claim they do).


Each year up to 33 million cases of food poisoning occur in the United States.

There are 120,000 species of fly. The common house fly, Musca domestica, is one of the more prevalent. It belongs to a group known as the filth flies, because it breeds in garbage, feces, and anything that is rotting. A female fly is able to lay 1000 or more eggs during her two-week lifetime. During a hot summer, a new generation of flies appears about every eight days. Flies carry nearly a million different strains of bacteria.


One in four office water coolers contains bacteria. The water is usually pure in the plastic container, but the faucets become contaminated.

There are 120 viruses, including Hepatitis A, that live in feces. When you flush the toilet, water droplets containing more than 25,000 virus particles and 600,000 BACTERIA FLY FROM THE BOWL, hover for a few hours, then finally land on surfaces as far away as six feet. Closing the toilet lid won't help; the next time it's opened, a cloud of virus-carrying water particles will burst out. (Toothbrushes are a common target of this vapor.) For a truly clean toilet, regulardisinfectants won't do, so you will have to spray lab alcohol in the bowl and light it. A flambéed toilet bowl is guaranteed to be bug free for at least one flush. (Caution: Do not spray the alcohol on the seat and do not try this with a plastic bowl.)

A Flagstaff, Arizona, teenager thought he had pulled a muscle in his groin after a long run. The next day he died of the bubonic plague. Researchers figure a flea that had bitten an infected prairie dog bit him. Plague hot spots include New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California.


Women are three times more likely to have migraine headaches than men.


Penicillin antibiotics (including amoxicillin, ampicillin, oxacillin, and penicillin) are prescribed to fight bacterial infections. About 10% of people are allergic to them and may develop itching, swelling, breathing difficulties, blood vessel collapse, skin peeling, CHILLS, fever, muscle aches, and even death.

Other possible side effects of oral penicillin are stomach upset, VOMITING, diarrhea, colitis, abdominal pains, coating of the tongue, and onset of fungal diseases. Side effects of injected penicillin may include dizziness, hallucinations, seizures, agitation, confusion, and anxiety.

Although American scientists have assured the public that mad cow disease does not exist in domestic cows, the related Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has appeared in deer and elk in Wyoming, Colorado, and South Dakota, affecting an estimated 5% of Colorado deer. Called chronic wasting disease, the disease may be able to jump from game to hunters who eat the meat.


There are 100,000 new cases of syphilis every year in the United States.


More than 500 insect species are resistant to pesticides.

Margarine is lower in fat than butter but most brands contain trans-fatty acids, which actually raise cholesterol levels.


You wake up with more than the usual amount of "sand" in your eyes:

You forgot to take the mascara off before bed.

You sat too long in a smoky bar.

You wore contacts to bed.

You have a retinal ulcer.

Today's newspaper is usually germ-free, since fresh ink inhibits the growth of microorganisms. But yesterday's paper—or a weekly—will be covered with potentially dangerous bacteria.

Almost 50% of people don't wash their hands after petting an animal, and one-third don't after coughing or sneezing. Pets carry bacteria such as Salmonella, insects such as ticks and fleas, and fungal infections such as ringworm, as well as roundworm and toxoplasma. All puppies carry roundworm.


Cat allergens that trigger asthma attacks were found in one out of three homes that do not have cats.

Two million Americans are bitten by dogs every year. Most victims are boys 20 and younger. About one third of those bites become infected from bacteria in the dog's mouth. Human bites can be very dangerous, too, since many of the bacteria in our mouths are resistant to antibiotics.

Baldness affects 40 million men and 20 million women in the United States.

The hair loss drug minoxidil must be used for life to produce results, and only works on about one-quarter of users. About three-quarters of users grow hair on the temples, between the eyebrows, on the upper cheek, and on the back, arms, and legs. Possible side effects include an itchy scalp or water and sodium retention, which can lead to heart failure.

Childbirth can spur hair loss; so can pigtails or cornrow hairstyles. Hats do not cause it.

The good news is that without hair you might not have to worry as much about the fungus Candida, which is carried on hair brushes and can cause yeast infections.


The steroid Prednisone, commonly prescribed for asthma, can cause psychosis.

Urethane, produced as a byproduct of alcohol fermentation, remains in wine, fruit brandies, bourbon, scotch, sake, and other spirits. It is known to cause cancer in animals, though its effects on humans are not yet understood. Changes in alcohol production have generally meant urethane levels are dropping (since monitoring began in 1987), but older alcohols may still have high levels. How old is your scotch?

A reddish or furry tongue may mean scarlet fever.

A smooth, pale, glossy tongue could indicate pernicious anemia.

An extended tongue bent to the side may indicate a stroke.

Brownish sores on the tongue may indicate typhoid fever.

DO NOT DRINK WARM WATER FROM THE SINK: Older hot water pipes are made of lead, which leeches into the water. DO NOT GET A BIOPSY OR OTHER MEDICAL TEST ON FRIDAY: Labs are usually closed over the weekend and you will have to wait till Monday for the results. ALWAYS DRY YOUR FEET LAST AFTER TAKING A SHOWER: Bacteria from the floor of the shower will be on your feet, and, if dried first, will be on the towel and can be wiped on the rest of your body. DO NOT BREATHE WHILE USING AN AEROSOL SPRAY: Inhaling aerosol sprays or powders can cause lung damage. DO NOT HANG LAUNDRY TO DRY ON A CLOTHESLINE IF YOU HAVE ALLERGIES: The clothes will collect pollen.

ALWAYS REMOVE THE FOIL ON WINE BOTTLES BEFORE REMOVING THE CORK: Until recently, the foil on many bottles was made with lead. DO NOT DRIVE TO A HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM: You will get more attention if you arrive in an ambulance. DO NOT SHAKE HANDS WITH ANY-

Meet the Author

Wendy Marston is obsessed with health. She has written on health for the New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, and the Washington Post, and is a former contributing editor at Health. She lives in New York City.

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Hypochondriac's Handbook 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago