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Definitely Just a Cold
The first three "symptoms you should not ignore" were: rectal bleeding; loss of height; and sudden blindness!
Who ignores sudden blindness? Who sits in the office at lunchtime going "Oh, who turned out the lights? Oh, no, I can't see a thing, it's awful, I'm no use to anyone today. I'll answer phones, that's all I can do, that's all I'll be good for today. Oh, don't make a fuss, don't make a fuss, don't make a fuss."
One of the characters has come down with something. They may be having mysterious fainting spells, or losing time, or too weak to stand, but whatever the symptoms, it's clear it's serious. If the influence of mystical power is implied, you would think they'd have cause to worry and confide in their friends about their suspicions. Or at least wonder why they're sick.
Actually, the more obvious it's not a normal illness, the less likely they'll mention it. Even if your cast includes some of the most helpful doctors or mind readers, the character won't bring it up for quite a few episodes in a row, constantly making the excuse they're just a bit under the weather. This manages to convince their unusually thick friends.
For the reason it never is
"just a cold", see Perfect Health
, a subtrope of the Law of Conservation of Detail
This may be used for one or more Sick Episodes
. This may develop into either a Soap Opera Disease
or an Incurable Cough of Death
. If caused by contact with the bad guys, it may be Allergic to Evil
. Often used as an excuse by a Zombie Infectee
in denial. Opposite of Mistaken for Dying
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Anime & Manga
- Asa from SHUFFLE!, who denies there's a problem even as she's intermittently losing consciousness in the hospital. She can easily cure herself with a simple spell, but she doesn't want to hurt her mom's feelings.
- Joe near the end of the Gatchaman series.
- Watanuki in ×××HOLiC, when his friendship with the ghost woman is making him extremely ill, to the point of coughing up blood, insists that it is "just a cold"—even when Doumeki repeatedly asks him if he's sure his symptoms don't have to do with "spirits and stuff."
- In Deep Love -Ayu- believes it's a fever when it clearly isn't. It's AIDs.
- Royal Business: Spike sees that Pinkie Pie is looking ill. It's actually the long-term effects of being wounded by Red Haze the Dragon in Dragonshyness.
- District 9: So, you or a coworker for a multinational corporation tasked with monitoring aliens were exposed to an unknown black substance in possession of said aliens, which has caused you to: drip black from your nose, vomit black, drop fingernails, and look like you're suffering acute pneumonia. Do you A. Report your condition and have the original substance examined, B. Take a sick day to sort it out yourself, or C. Nothing at all? The answer, of course, is C. Of course, one must remember that, at the time, said infectee was trying his best to make a good impression after a recent promotion. He refuses treatment so as not to look weak or incompetent to his superiors.
- In REC, the little girl in the movie isn't infected with latent zombiism... she merely has angina! Honest! Of course, the cast do eventually put two and two together and confront the mother about it, who is bitten to death by her daughter as the infection finally takes hold.
- In Slither, the increasingly deforming marks, welts and swelling caused by infection by the alien worms are invariably "bug bites". Even when the bearers of said bug bites are shambling around like zombies, eating dead neighbors, or turning into amorphous tentacle monsters.
- In Cabin Fever, Marcy discovers some tender red marks on her back while washing her face. There's a flesh eating disease going around, by the way. But Marcy instead seems to believe these marks came from her friend Paul fondling her too vigorously when they recently made love, and even chastises him for this. To add injury to insult, Marcy had (unbeknownst to either of them) just infected Paul with the deadly disease, because she insisted they didn't need a condom because she claimed she was healthy.
- In Finding Neverland, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies tries to pass off her illness as a cold, but she doesn't fool her son Peter, who lashes out about being lied to.
- In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a scientist who works with viruses assumes this, much to the world's detriment.
- In Arrow's Fall of the Heralds of Valdemar series, Herald Dirk claims his respiratory symptoms are this, after weeks of self-destructive behavior including drinking heavily, standing hopelessly outside in the rain, and generally being miserable. He does this for two reasons: he's pining with unrequited love for Herald Talia, whom he mistakenly believes to be in a Love Triangle with his best friend, Kris; and he's trying to cope with the tragic death of a trainee who was under his instruction. The fact that the person who is most suited to help him sort out this mess is Talia, the person he least wants to face in person, compounds the problem, which lasts until he collapses... from pneumonia. The Healers who attend him as he recovers spare no effort in telling him what an idiot he was being.
- Galaxy of Fear: The Planet Plague has Tash, feeling hot and irritable and with a growing rashy lump on her arm, assuming she just has the flu. In fairness her brother has it and she thought she'd just been inoculated with a preventative vaccine for it, and she asked a doctor - but since that doctor had been the one to infect her with The Virus intended to turn her into a Blob Monster, he said it was nothing that wouldn't clear up on its own.
- In Stephen King's sweeping novel The Stand, events start out with a security systems malfunction in a lab letting an engineered biological weapon to get loose. In the earliest stages, the disease (which would come to be known as Captain Trips) would look just like a cold, with flu, cough, sneezing, sniffles, and stuffy noses. Within a few days, the symptoms would escalate to deadly levels. Many characters think that they caught a cold, and before long...
- Jem to Tessa in The Infernal Devices, when she asks about his health.
- Melle when she's first suffering the effects of the Drum wasting gift in Gifts, but it quickly progresses past her ability to power through the increasing weakness of body.
Live Action TV
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's final season, the Founders contract a debilitating disease that affects only them. Odo, who had joined with the disease-ridden Head Founder, kept the fact that the disease was progressing rapidly a secret for several episodes. Bashir synthesizes a cure for the disease, disobeying orders to do so (because it could fall into the Founders' hands). Ironically, it was the friendly offer of this cure to the Founders that ended the Dominion War.
- Played with in that at least one character figures out how sick he is, but doesn't mention it because there is no cure and she knows that he prefers to keep such things private.
- In 24, the cheater gets a bloody nose. He thinks it's just a bloody nose and, if he tells his anything, he says it's only a bloody nose, but it keeps going. It's the early manifestation of a fatal virus.
- Parodied in That Mitchell and Webb Look with a increasingly ill looking man with a severe cough who insists it's just that. Until one day his love interest shows up at the train station to meet him and he's not there. Then he shows up looking perfectly fine.
Woman: Look, I thought you had TB!
Man: TB? No, I'd have mentioned that. God! No, it's just a cough.
- In the Community episode "Epidemiology", a number of guests at the college's Halloween party come down with a mystery ailment whose symptoms include fever and stomachaches. Rich, a doctor, claims the symptoms point to food poisoning which the dean told him to rule out. Then, Star-Burns enters the quarantine area and is grabbed and bitten by the infected Pierce who has a bloodthirsty look on his face. Rich then rules out food poisoning.
- In Helix, which revolves around a CDC team dealing with an outbreak of The Virus at a remote Research, Inc..
- Early in the mission, junior CDC team member Sarah begins to exhibit a hand tremor, which senior scientist Julia incorrectly interprets as a symptom of infection until Sarah tests herself and appears clean. Sarah blames fatigue, and the viewer is likely to attribute it to delayed fear reaction from a particularly trauma-filled day. But in the closing scenes of "274" she pops pills in her quarters, and reveals a large vertical scar on her back.
- Also in "274," after being infected by Patient Zero Peter, Julia herself goes into denial and tells team leader Alan she fainted in the shower due to fatigue, later projecting and thus accusing Sarah of being a Zombie Infectee herself.
- In The West Wing, when President Bartlet collapses in the Oval Office, the First Lady (who is a doctor) immediately cuts her trip short and flies back to DC. She insists that he just has the flu and a high fever. As Leo points out, "[You came back] because the President has a temperature. The President's not in nursery school." She then confesses that the President secretly has multiple sclerosis.
- Doctor Who: After Barbara is poisioned in "Planet of the Giants", she initially attempts to write-off her symptoms as some sort of minor illness.
- Tracer Tong in Deus Ex develops a cough, but otherwise doesn't make too much mention of it until X51.
- Shion of Xenosaga insists to the other characters that her fainting spells are just fatigue. It's really symptoms of a condition that comes with coming into contact with U-DO, the same condition that her mother was afflicted with.
- Colette in Tales of Symphonia kept her Angel Toxicosis secret for a long portion of the game.
- Happens in Trauma Team during a Diagnosis mission. Joshua tries to claim nothing is wrong with him. The nurse is not fooled. Neither is Gabe. Much to Gabe's dismay, he has Werner's Syndrome.
- Also happens in an earlier Diagnosis. Jacob Tillman constantly claims nothing is wrong with him. Unlike Joshua, who eventually admits he's not well, he fights you to the end, claiming that nothing is wrong. Turns out, he has a serious heart condition.
- In Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, Almaz goes with this excuse when he gets infected by an incurable curse that is slowly killing him. He gets better as long as it's not the bad ending.
- Pokémon Conquest has Hanbei use a similar excuse on Hideyoshi when asked why he's coughing up a storm. Kanbei doesn't buy it and for good reasons. His real life counterpart was diagnosed with tuberculosis and died from it.
- At the end of Persona 3, the gameplay notes that the main character is very tired. He dies a couple of days later.
- Hanna of Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name has vomited blood, become visibly weak and even passed out cold on his job and still insists he's fine.
- Alan of The Dreamer has an ominous cough, and has sweat on his brow, but insists that he's fine.
- In the first season of South Park, a Zombie Outbreak is mistaken for a nasty case of Pink Eye by most residents, long after the truth should have been blindingly obvious.
- Zigzagged in one episode of the Aladdin series. The illness that Genie gets is Definitely Just a Cold, but the problem is, when genies get colds, they can't control their magic. Big problem. So while Jasmine has to watch over a sick genie who's magic threatens to level the city (and in one scene, launches about ten Baleful Polymorphs at her in a row in a fit of sneezing) Aladdin has to find a gemstone that can cure in a forbidden temple guarded by a divine, golden guardian, without Genie's help. (Fortunately, the guardian prefers brainteasers to physical fighting.)
- There are people who react this way to being ill, and of course most of the time they are right. However once you get past a certain age you really need to be a little more careful because eventually something will find you as your immune system weakens with age.
- Sometimes one of the early symptoms of a heart attack is the heart pumping a little more sluggishly. Blood pools in the lower extremities applying pressure to the intestines. This makes people think they simply have to use the toilet - many heart attack victims are found on the toilet because of this, and if you've ever wondered why hospitals put emergency pulls next to toilets, now you know.