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THE CURE FOR CABIN FEVER

As I write this column on a Sunday, it has been raining for nearly four days straight. Not so remarkable an event, nor a calamitous one, if one lives in Borneo or Seattle - depending if your preference is for jungle rain or concrete and asphalt rain - but quite an unusual event in otherwise sunny California.

I'm used to spending my weekends outside. Albeit, I might be outside pulling weeds, but it's still outside. Being stuck inside gives me cabin fever.

Cabin fever is not a disease like scarlet fever or typhoid fever. But, in a way, it resembles a disease. Despite a thermostat controlled temperature in your home, on these gray and wet days, you may still feel an uncomfortable chill. Occasionally a tremor may erupt in your hands. You may go to the bathroom a lot. You'll find the refrigerator door in frequent motion. You're thirsty a lot. No, cabin fever is not a disease, but it can make you feel as melancholy as if you had one.

Unless one is used to the confinement of rainy days, "cabin fever" can be stressful. It is not simply animal instinct, but moreso animal madness, that causes tigers and polar bears penned in at the zoo to pace back and forth with monotonous regularity, much as human inmates do in asylums.

So what's the cure for the depression and gloom of cabin fever? Does it require a hands-on experience, a la the mind meld of my favorite Vulcan doctor, Spock? Maybe we all need a guru to help channel our inner thoughts and powers? Or a dose of powdered roots? Maybe the answer is a simple mantra? No, I must not urge you to rely upon New Age clairvoyants, spiritualists, homeopathic remedies, or psychobabble. The cure for cabin fever is simple. GET OUT!

But getting out on a rainy day doesn't mean cruising the local roads to peruse beautiful scenery. You can't see much through wiper blades and wet roads can be even more hazardous to your health. Getting out on a rainy day in Southern California means going to the mall or to a movie. It means spending money. Cabin fever as a disease can have an expensive cure.

My wife, Margaret, says it's time to stop typing already. She says she's got it too - cabin fever. And she needs the cure badly.

Next week when I write my column, I hope it'll be sunny, and I'll have more important things to say. But for now this physician needs to heal himself, and his wife. We're going to use the "cure of shopping" today, with a big dose of Nordstrom and Macys.