The Psychology of Money and Paracetamol Junkies

I am currently reading this cool book, which interestingly named “The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness” by Morgan Housel. I have not finished it yet to give you a full review. But, I could not help but to share an important concept resonated well with me. Housel calls it as “being rational vs being reasonable”.

We all know what is being rational while taking any decision ahead of us. To achieve it rationally, we pull out all available information from Google, Wikipedia and Quora, draw a spreadsheet on pros and cons, apply the weighted average, analyze balance sheet, and then go for it. Additionally, you might factor the scenario of “What would Kejriwal do?” :-). Being reasonable is much easier to explain, it is just being practical with taking one day at a time and accepting being imperfect.

However, more than the concept itself, the example Morgan chose is fascinating. It is about temperature increase during a fever. Fever is almost always misconceived as a bad thing. We know that it must be avoided at any circumstances, else immediately leading to a panic situation. This has mostly to do with discomfort a fever brings in. And there is a widely accepted popular opinion that Fever is a side effect of an ongoing battle within the human body. For these reasons, we pop paracetamol even for a small degree increase in body temperature. In fact, a sub-industry of pharmaceuticals working on curing ‘fever’ and provide comfort to the ailing.

However, apparently, myriad studies have been conducted on fever and its effects on human body. Please be informed that I am not qualified to fully comprehend and provide advise. But I can tell you what the gist is. The temperature increase is not a side effect for most cases. Instead, it is a mechanism deployed by our immune system to set favorable grounds for battle by deliberately increasing temperature. In other words, temperature raise is not post-battle collateral damage. Instead, it is pre-battle and pre-emptive preparation against the infiltrating microorganisms. Evidently, a slight increase of one degree Fahrenheit can immediately put foreign microorganisms at their backfoot and thus increasing efficiency of our immune system by manifold.

On contrary to popular opinion, consumption of a Paracetamol would reduce the temperature setting back to the square one. The head start it previously gained is now completely removed. Basically, paracetamol will nullify the action taken by a system, which has a maturity that evolved over millions of years with its infinite wisdom. Now immune system will have to overwork.

In this scenario, and for short fevers, keeping calm and resting is the most rational thing to do. However, we have already sleepwalked into being paracetamol junkies. As adults, we pop a pill on the drop of a hat and rush toddlers emergency rooms. The panic overpowers the rationality, and we consider the most reasonable thing to do it burden the medical industry further. The doctors are obligated to remove patient’ discomfort, more than the obligation of cure. Hope it makes sense.

Disclaimer: I am not qualified to provide you with a piece of medical advice here. Please do your own reading and consult.

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