Health Watch - Getting Sick: Fear of Illness

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


Winter is the season for colds and flu, sniffling, sneezing and coughing. With recent worries about the H1N1 influenza – also called “swine flu” – we’ve been even more concerned about infection this year. So, this week on Health Watch, we’ll talk about winter illnesses and what can be done about them.

When someone near you sneezes, your first thought may be that you’ve been exposed to a cold and will get sick soon, but studies have found that people may also become afraid of other health threats, like heart attacks or accidents, when they hear a sneeze. Dr. Deborah Wiebe, a health psychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says people unconsciously overreact to other people’s behavior as a way of protecting their own well-being. You can avoid overreaction by knowing how to minimize your health risks.

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February 2010


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