When I brought my first child home from the hospital, I was a nervous wreck. I worried about her every minute for the first several days, and I would spend hours watching her sleep. When I finally dozed off at night, it was only because I was resting my hand on her chest to feel her chest rise and fall. Imagine just how freaked out I was when, that very first night, she fell into a deep sleep and her breathing started sounding weird. She would breathe normally for a long time, and suddenly she was breathing loudly or her breathing would speed up for a short period of time. First, of course, I Googled it, and then I called my mom. “It’s normal,” my mom told me. Apparently, newborn breathing is pretty weird, and they can’t be expected to sound like we do when we sleep. I tried to stop obsessing, but the weird way my daughter breathed at night just ended up on the list of freaky medical things I worried about without due cause. I’m not alone. There are a ton of strange things about the human body that make people worry but are totally normal. Here are seven examples of bizarre, but normal, conditions.
That Weird Way Your Baby Breathes
First things first, let’s revisit my first month of motherhood and talk a little about the weird way that newborns breathe. Babies don’t breathe at a consistent rhythm when they sleep. And according to Susan Besser, MD, a primary care provider at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, newborns don’t breathe through their mouths until they are several months old. “One more thing about babies and breathing: The nose and airway of the baby is smaller than an adult,” she says, “so the breathing noises may seem very loud.” Of course, difficulty breathing is not something to brush off. If you suspect your baby is actually struggling to breathe, Besser offers some criteria for deciding if it’s time to seek care: Babies that are nursing well, able to cry vigorously, and seem alert are doing fine—even if their noses are stuffy. However, if the baby is showing any blueness around their lips or seems unresponsive, head right to the emergency room.
That Pins-and-Needles Feeling
This abnormality isn’t limited to children. Anyone can get a static-y feeling in their limbs, and it’s actually fairly common, so there’s no reason to panic. However, as the video below shows, sometimes this tingling can be a sign of something more serious.
The Post-Fever Rash
When you’re a parent, sick kids are just par for the course. Even if they’re not in daycare, they seem to share germs with each other any chance they get. A rash on a young kid, especially a baby, is pretty scary, but it’s much more common than you might think. It’s totally normal for a child to develop a rash 12–24 hours after a fever breaks. It’s called roseola, and it’s common in kids under the age of 2, according to Healthline. There is no way to treat roseola, so, in most cases, you can just wait for it to go away on its own. When do you know that a rash is something more? When there are additional, serious symptoms happening at the same time, according to Besser. “Rashes, of course, can be due to lots of things: viruses, dry skin, poison ivy or other contact, reactions to foods or medications,” she explains. “The only time an emergency room visit is advised is if there are other serious symptoms associated with the rash—primarily difficulty breathing.”
That Weird, Stabbing Feeling
Experiencing chest pain makes a lot of people worry—and rightfully so—but not all chest pain is reason for concern. As it turns out, it is fairly normal for children and young adults to experience a specific, sudden onset of chest pain in short bursts. It’s called precordial catch syndrome, and it is benign. It’s a sharp, localized, stabbing feeling in the chest that lasts somewhere between 30 seconds and three minutes, according to the Health Service at the University of Wisconson–Stevens Point. The pain, UWSP document says, doesn’t even come from the heart. “The pain probably comes from nerves in the inner lining of the chest cavity called the pleura which becomes pinched or irritated.” They advise people experiencing precordial catch to “Relax, knowing that the pain is completely harmless and needs no specific treatment.”
“… everyone occasionally has palpitations or skipped beats.”
But while precordial catch syndrome isn’t a reason for a visit to the ER, that doesn’t mean you should ignore chest pain. If you’re experiencing chest pain on a regular basis, it’s probably a good idea to see your primary care physician to rule out any other issues. “If you are young and/or in relative good health, it’s unlikely that chest pain or palpitations signal a serious heart problem,” explains Besser. “But this is an instance I strongly recommend you call your [primary care physician]. For the record, let me state, everyone occasionally has palpitations or skipped beats. It’s normal, but if it happens continuously, that might be an issue.”
The Ice Cream Headache
Okay, so most people know better than to freak out when experiencing a brain freeze. One thing most people don’t know is that this common experience has a not-so-common name. You may call it a brain freeze, but the medical world calls it sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, according to ScienceDaily. It may be harmless, but it actually happens for a reason. When you enjoy something super cold, the treat changes the temperature of the arteries that feed blood to the brain, causing them to contract and dilate. As a result, your brain believes you’re experiencing pain, and that’s why you experience a brain freeze.
“They are usually not life threatening unless accompanied by other symptoms …”
Scientists are actually using the brain freeze to learn about more serious headaches. By observing the brain after inducing a brain freeze, researchers hope to learn more about the causes of and treatment for headaches. A brain freeze is certainly not worth an emergency room visit or a visit with your primary care physician, but what about other types of headaches? Even incredibly painful headaches don’t require a visit to the emergency room, Besser says, because they’re typically not life threatening. “If your only symptom is a headache, call your doctor,” Besser explains. “They are usually not life threatening unless accompanied by other symptoms such as [fainting] or signs and symptoms of a stroke, such as loss of use of a limb or the ability to talk.”
Lumps in Your Neck When You’re Sick
Since most people know at least one person who has been diagnosed with cancer, finding a lump anywhere on your body can be scary. Not all lumps are reason for concern, however: Your lymph nodes regularly become enlarged when you’re fighting off an illness. When your doctor feels around on your neck when you’re sick, they’re checking to see if your cervical lymph nodes are swollen. The name for this experience is lymphadenopathy, according to Medscape, and it typically happens because a pathogen is present in the body. The remedy for lymphadenopathy is fighting the cause. As you and your doctor treat your infection, your lymph nodes should recede. In rare cases, swollen lymph nodes are due to something more serious, like lymphoma. According to Mayo Clinic, if your lymph nodes swell for no reason, are present for two to four weeks, feel hard or rubbery/don’t move, or are “accompanied by persistent fever, night sweats or unexplained weight loss,” you should recontact your doctor.
That Time of the Month
When it comes to menstrual cycles, there are many symptoms, both painful and annoying, that are considered to be within the range of normal. And unfortunately for those who experience it, heavy bleeding is common and not a reason for alarm. Women do visit the emergency room on a regular basis because of their concerns about menstruation, according to Besser, but it is usually unwarranted. “Unless you are having a lot of pain or have bled so much to the point of fainting, which implies significant blood loss, save the visit for your primary care physician,” she says. Heavy bleeding during your period might not be life threatening, but it is definitely a difficult experience that many women deal with. It’s called menorrhagia, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, and it is technically defined as bleeding that soaks a tampon or pad every hour and cramps that make it difficult to continue daily activities. Don’t visit an emergency room if you are experiencing this, but do call your doctor if you’ve never talked about managing your symptoms before.