The Persuasive Power of the Patient with a Cold - Ogden Nash Shows us the Source

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

antibiotics-for-a-cold-ogden-nash-persuasion-Opt-150Forceful patient requests for antibiotics in an obvious viral URI are some of the most difficult conversations for any doctor to handle.

  • On one side - the patient is miserable
  • On the other side - the diagnosis is simple and quick and the treatment is crystal clear

Yet, in many cases, we physicians can be persuaded to prescribe against our better judgement. 

  • Where does this common patient-doctor conflict originate?
  • Who can shed light on the awesome persuasive power supplied to our patients by a simple rhinovirus?

I nominate Ogden Nash.

Read his poem below and remember your last doozy of a head cold. I nominate these sentiments, rarely spoken in the course of your office visit, as the source of the arm twisting power of your sniffling, suffering patient's argument for antibiotics.

Enjoy ... 

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"Common Cold"
by Ogden Nash

ogden-nash-common-cold-antibiotics-240WGo hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
I'm not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever's hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne'er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare's plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!



  • How does this first person diatribe help you understand talking to patients about conservative treatment of the "common" cold?
  • What is one of your favorite "medical poems"?
  • What is your favorite Ogden Nash poem?