EVERYBODY must have done it. You get a twinge or tummy ache or a pulled muscle in your chest and start worrying you are ill.
Next thing, you are deep in a medical dictionary or looking it up on the internet and discover you are suffering from rabies, the first stages of plague and a type of irritable bowel syndrome than usually proves fatal and there are still 20 things to do before you die.
“Oh my God, I’ve only got weeks to live and I’ve never seen the sun set over Ayers Rock.”
“Never mind, love. I’ll take you to Bridlington, instead, and you can watch it set over Flamborough Head.”
“What about swimming with dolphins?”
“You can have a dip in the garden pond, the goldfish won’t mind.”
“The Mile High Club?”
“How about Mecca Bingo and a fish supper on the way home?”
“Go on, then, you old smooth talker, you.”
Medical dictionaries may be all well and good, but should come with a health warning.
And, according to researchers, so should Holby City, ER, House and Casualty and all those medical dramas that make going to hospital seem so full of life, vitality, good looking staff and bonking in the sluice room.
Because watching them, they say, can also make you worry about being ill.
Dr Jan Van Mierlo said: “The findings revealed that exposure to television images of medical characters was strongly associated with fear of illness.”
Medical programmes could “potentially be doing as much harm as good”, say the experts, even though TV shows have raised awareness of specific illnesses and have often offered helplines for viewers to call if they think they are affected.
Unfortunately, the experts are worried people may “self diagnose” rather than visit their doctor.
Worse, after watching an operation on Casualty they could decide to take action themselves.
Slipping on a pair of Marigolds and having a rub-down with Dettol, putting the electric iron on standby in case they need a defibrillator and sharpening the carving knife with gusto.
“But Bert, it’s only a verruca.”
“Don’t bleat, woman. I’ll cure it and make sure it doesn’t come back. I’ll take it off at the knee.”
“Er, can’t we do 60 Minute Make Over instead? That back bedroom is a right mess.”
If the power of suggestion makes you think you are so ill that you end up in hospital, do not expect sympathy from the real staff of Casualty.
“You have Tom Jones syndrome.”
“Is it serious?”
“It’s not unusual.”
Or perhaps you should really start to worry if the doctor says, “Your condition is so rare, we’re not sure we’re pronouncing it right.”
Enjoy medical dramas but don’t take them too seriously – and stay away from medical dictionaries.
And don’t forget, Charlie Fairhead and Patsy Kensit are fictional characters. Er, sorry. Patsy Kensit is an actress. Mind you, I know which one I would prefer to look after me, if I was poorly.