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  • Ken Hay

A Fool For A Patient

©2018 Ken Hay MB BS Dip(Obst)RCOG

One of the adages in medicine is; “The doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient”.

I never fail to attend my annual cardiology workup and review by the cardiologist and the twice yearly glaucoma and cataract reviews by the ophthalmologist. However, I do, on occasions, manage the simple afflictions that beset us all from time to time.

Such was the case recently when I developed an intensely itchy rash around my navel. I diagnosed a simple allergic reaction but couldn’t identify the allergen. I tried simple things and it went away. But then it recurred a month or so later. I repeated the previous, simple routine but it got worse. I considered scabies and lice and treated accordingly all to no avail. I was starting to get desperate enough to see a GP but it suddenly started to fade away and the itch stopped.

That was the pattern that persisted for many months. Eventually, fed up, I resorted as a second last resort, to Dr Google. (The last resort would have been the GP’s waiting room.) And there, in Dr Google’s surgery, without the luxury of the taking of a medical history or the embarrassment of an examination the diagnosis and treatment were found.

The rash was caused by my new jeans and denim shorts purchased, on reflection, shortly before the rash started. Seems it is a very common problem instantly recognised by the astute young doctor and easily treated. The cause was not so much the jeans and denim shorts per se but, believe it or not, the metal button that one struggles with to secure the garment around the waist.

It seems these buttons contain, or are coated with, nickel and it is this that triggers the allergic reaction. The button is, in fact a stud, the stem of which passes through all layers of the waist band, and emerges on the inner surface. Wearing a singlet or a tucked in shirts protects the skin from contact with the stud. I always wear a singlet through winter but the infernal garments always want to ride up above my navel.

So the prevention of this rash is to prevent the stud from contacting the skin. I am going to get someone to sew a flannel patch over the studs in both garments. The reason the rash appeared intermittently was because I wore the garments intermittently with the wearing of other trousers or shorts.

Of course if I had swallowed my foolish pride and gone to see a GP - even a young one – an early diagnosis, treatment and prevention regime would have solved the problem long before I did. Hence, “The doctor who treats himself ….”


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