Cold and flu season is in full swing, which means that if you aren’t currently under the weather you may well soon be. And having your skull pierced by an iron rod in a freak accident is, unfortunately, a risk we all face year-round. (There’s no vaccine for that—yet!) How can you tell which one is ailing you?
It’s a tricky question, as all three maladies share a number of similar symptoms. Flu sufferers commonly get headaches, for example—but so do those who have had an iron rod driven through their skull, as they’ll be quick to tell you, assuming they’re conscious and have retained the power of speech.
The good news is that by asking yourself a few quick questions, you can make a fairly accurate diagnosis.
Did symptoms appear gradually, or suddenly?
A cold often comes on slowly, beginning with a tickle in the throat or a runny nose before getting worse. The flu, on the other hand, usually packs a wallop and hits you like a proverbial ton of bricks. An iron rod driven through your skull hits you harder still, and at speeds measured in hundreds of meters per second—usually before you understand you’ve been “hit” at all.
Where are your symptoms?
You may feel a cold or the flu in your throat, nose, and chest; the major symptoms of an iron rod driven through your skull typically follow a linear path through the head.
Just how bad do you feel?
Generally speaking, the flu is more serious than the common cold. So if you’re simply feeling sniffly and tired, it’s likely a cold. If you’re also experiencing body aches, fever, and chills, and are having trouble even getting out of bed, chances are good it’s the flu. If you feel as though you’ve been shot in the face, but with an extremely long and thick bullet, and the thing just sailed right through, leaving bystanders to shriek and gawk and doctors to marvel at the fact that you’re not just alive but ambulatory, you’re probably dealing with an iron-rod-through-the-skull, freak-accident kind of scenario.
Is there vomiting?
Vomiting doesn’t typically accompany a cold or the flu, but if others around you are throwing up, it may well indicate that an iron rod has been driven through your skull.
Before the onset of your symptoms, were you working with explosives and iron rods—in a mine, for instance, or blasting rock to make way for a railroad?
If not, you probably have a cold or the flu. If so, there’s a decent chance that an iron rod has been driven through your head. If you can’t remember anything you’ve done lately, that may also implicate an iron rod, one which, en route through your brain, obliterated the prefrontal cortex.
Do people gasp when you enter a room?
If so, rod.
Does your brain feel like maybe there’s a hole running clean through it? Like, can you reach up and stick a pencil in there?
When you drink, does the fluid go down your throat as usual or does it arc out, through a different hole, like in a cartoon?
If it’s the former, you’re dealing with a cold or the flu; if it’s the latter, your skull has probably been pierced by an iron rod.
Still not sure?
If you run through this list and still aren’t sure whether you’re dealing with a cold, the flu, or an iron rod driven through your skull, consult your physician. Maybe have someone else drive you.