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You know I'm infected and don't want to start a panic?!? Donation made!
Mar 25, 2004

Dear Dr. Bob,

This is actually the fifth time I've written, no answer so far! I know my question may seem trivial to you but your answer is extremely important to me! I'm a 30 year old woman with to little children from Belgium. Here 's my situation: 23 days ago I visited an otolaryngologist because of my chronic throat inflammation. She examined my throat with a sort of tubal torch and looked with it at my vocal cords. The instrument touched my mouth in several places. I'm pretty sure it wasn't sterile. Although there was no visible blood on it (I did't inspect it closely of course) I do worry about possible hiv transmission if she used it previously on an hiv-patient. My mucous membranes were inflamed and therefore more vulnerable for infection, right? I've been worried out my mind ever since, I have to take 2 Xanax a day to keep my fear a little bit under control. Now 23 days later I have angular cheilitis, something I have never had before in my life! I'm also very tired and have muscle aches, also swollen lymph glands. Are these symptoms related to my fear or to ARS? Now my real worry is about my little boy (5 years old). I often kiss him on the mouth and since last week he developed some aphteous ulcers in his mouth. Today he came down with a fever, swollen lymph glands, throwing up,... Is it possible I gave him herpes and which is a symptom of ARS? Please please please answer me, I've already lost 3 kilo's worrying, I can't sleep at night, i'm feeling very depressed.. I don't know how to get through te next 61 days until I can get a test.... These are my questions: 1. is it possible that hiv is transmitted by a medical instrument (I know the virus doesn't survive outside the body very long but what is "not very long"? I've read contradicting theories, one says a few minutes, the other a couple of hours... 2. Can vitamin supplements prevent the outbreak of ARS? 3. Are my symptoms related to ARS (no fever though)? 4. Did I give my son herpes? I know you get a lot of mail but your answer is very important to me, please help! I have made a donation because I think you are a remarkable person and you are invaluable for many people. Thanks a lot!

very very worried mom from Belgium

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Worried Mom from Belgium,

Let me give you my opinion about your four specific questions straightaway:

1. Some medical instruments require sterilization; others do not. "Universal precautions" to prevent the spread of bloodborne pathogens (like hepatitis and HIV) have been in place for many years. To fear HIV from an otolaryngologist's examination is irrational.

2. No, vitamins do not prevent or delay ARS, nor will they alter the validity of HIV test results.

3. No, your symptoms are not suggestive of ARS.

4. I obviously have no way of diagnosing your son's condition based on the limited information you can provide over the Internet. If he has fever, swollen lymph nodes, vomiting, and aphthous ulcers, he should be seen by his pediatrician. These are very common symptoms that can be related to many causes.

Worried Mom, it's important for me to impress on you several concepts. First, your risk for HIV infection is essentially nonexistent. Second, your symptoms are not suggestive of ARS. Third, you cannot pass something that you yourself don't have on to someone else.

So, what to do . . . ?

1. If you feel unwell, see your doctor for a checkup.

2. If your son is ill, take him to his pediatrician.

3. If you continue to be obsessed with irrational fears of HIV, get counseling. Being "worried out of your mind" over this incident is completely unwarranted, as well as unnecessary. HIV testing, in my opinion, is also unnecessary and unwarranted, if this has been your only potential risk (in essence a non-risk!).

Thank you for your donation. It is warmly appreciated.

Feel better. I do hope you'll consider getting some counseling.

Dr. Bob



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