Stuffy nose; chest congestion; persistent cough.

This sounds like a classic case of the common cold. There are many strains of the rhinovirus (the pathogen that causes the cold) so symptoms tend to vary, but in all likelihood this is nothing serious. Just take it easy for a couple of days and drink plenty of fluids.

Runny nose; itchy eyes; scratchy throat.

Breathe a sigh of relief because chances are this is not the flu. More likely than not you’re allergic to something. Allergy season officially ends after the first frost, but there are many common household allergens that linger well into winter. Dust is the most prevalent household allergen. Maybe you could stand to vacuum your place a little more often? I’m not saying it’s dust bunny central over there or anything, but…oh, alright; who are we kidding? Let’s be upfront with each other for once in our lives: you have some serious non-vacuuming issues. There’s freakin’ dust everywhere. How can you live with it? And it’s not just me who feels this way. Your folks, your friends, your neighbors, your ex-girlfriend, Rolanda—we all think you need to vacuum a whole lot more. What’s that? Oh, yeah, Rolanda and I have been seeing each other for a few weeks now. We were going to tell you about it at your birthday party, but well, I guess now’s as good a time as any: Rolanda and I are having sex. A lot of sex. It’s great, we’re great, and we both think you need to vacuum something fierce.

High fever; severe lethargy; headache.

Hmm. All the signs point to this being the flu. Let me go wash my hands. Be right back…there. Good. That feels better. Okay, yep, I bet you have the flu all right. Bummer. Please don’t touch that pen. Thanks. Or the remote control. Appreciate it. Let’s just play it safe and give you a mask to wear. I still have a few lying around from the SARS scare. Better still, let’s wrap your hands in Saran Wrap. You know, just to be safe. You wouldn’t want me getting sick, too. So as long as you’re here we might as well take every precaution…there. Good. That’s better. Phew. How much longer are you going to be here, anyway? No reason, just asking. So I’m going to go wash my hands again. Can I get you anything before I do? No? You’re good? Great. I might be a while. Feel free to hang out and not touch anything while I’m gone.

Bruised cheeks; emaciation;
a distorted view of reality; paranoia.

No, this isn’t the flu. Instead, this probably means that you’re Whitney Houston. Typically I’d recommend some medication, but I’m pretty sure that since you’re Whitney Houston, you have the medication angle worked out already. Best of luck, and please tell your bodyguards to release my scrotum.

Swollen glands the size of gourds;
large, weepy sores all over your body;
a steady flow of blood coming out of your belly button.

Listen, this is like the third time you’ve come to me with these symptoms and I don’t want any part of them. I have no idea what’s wrong with you and it’s to the point now where I just don’t care anymore either. You terrify me. You look like a monster. I can’t deal with it. There is only so much I can take. Please stick something in your belly button. There’s blood everywhere. This is brand-new kitchen tile, too. It cost a fortune. Damn it. Alright, whatever. I know your health is more important than expensive, really cool-looking tile imported from Spain. Stop crying. You’ll be okay. I’ll get the Saran Wrap. Might take a shower, too. Just stay there and try not to touch or breathe or bleed on anything until I get back. Thanks.