He Thought His Runny Nose Was Just Allergies, It Turned Out To Be Leaking Brain Fluid

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As I write this article, my middle child, a precocious six-year-old, is in the middle of a nasty cold. And do you know what I find amazing?

Pardon the grossness, but it’s incredible how much goop can come out of a little person. This pint-sized kiddo has produced more phlegm and mucus than I thought humanly possible.

I know, I know, that’s pretty disgusting. Still, it’s far less awful than what a Johnston County, North Carolina, man experienced around Thanksgiving 2017.

Greg Phillpotts had struggled with allergies for ages. It became so severe that doctors had diagnosed him alternately with bronchitis and pneumonia.

So the fact that his nose began to run while he slaved over Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t surprising. But how much it ran? Yeah, that surprised everyone.

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While Phillpotts slaved over a dish, his nose seemed to uncork. A substantial stream of clear liquid poured out of it — and flowed directly into the dish.

“I was preparing a meal and standing in the kitchen and it just added itself to the ingredients,” he told WLS. “It screwed up the whole dinner.

“You could be anywhere. You could be on the airplane, you could be talking to anybody and this thing just drains out of your face.”

However, the discharge refused to get better despite Phillpotts’ attempts to doctor himself. “It became normal up until February because I was up all night coughing,” he explained.

“You’re sitting here, you’re a family man. You don’t want to check out of the picture when it’s something someone could readily fix.”

Only when Dr. Alfred Iloreta at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital finally examined him, it became abundantly clear that this wasn’t something that Phillpotts could fix on his own. He was leaking cerebrospinal fluid.

Cerebrospinal fluid (or CSF as professionals call it) is the stuff that cushions your brain. Believe it or not, a CSF leak isn’t unheard of.

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According to the Cleveland Clinic, CSF leaks can occur when some kind of trauma damages the skull, usually around the sinuses or ears. However, sometimes they just … happen.

Patients typically notice that something is wrong when, like Phillpotts, they have discharge. They may also develop headaches or hearing loss.

Also, there can be more insidious symptoms. Dr. Iloreta said, “It’s the leakage of fluid that surrounds the brain to cushion it primarily to protect it from shock or trauma or anything like that.

“Sometimes when you have this leakage of the fluid from the brain, it can evolve into what we call an ascending infection. So bacteria can travel from the nose to the brain resulting in meningitis.”

Fortunately, Dr. Iloreta was able to fix the problem using a minimally invasive surgical procedure. It made all the difference for Phillpotts.

“Have you ever been so congested that you can’t breathe?” he said. “All of sudden you can breathe again, and what a relief that was!”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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