Turns out Greg Phillpotts' had more than just a runny nose, ABC7 Chicago reports. The North Carolina man was plagued by runny noses—while traveling, eating, in mid-conversation—and figured he just had bad allergies, although some doctors had diagnosed bronchitis and pneumonia. Even when Thanksgiving dinner was ruined in 2017 by his nose running into ingredients while he cooked, Phillpotts shrugged it off. Then it got worse: "I was stuffing tissues up my nose," he says. "It became normal up until February because I was up all night coughing." As he tells People, "I was scared." So Phillpotts went to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where Dr. Alfred Iloreta saw a bigger problem.
"It's the leakage of fluid that surrounds the brain to cushion it primarily to protect it from shock or trauma or anything like that," says Iloreta. "Sometimes when you have this leakage of the fluid from the brain, it can evolve into what we call an ascending infection. So bacteria can travel from the nose to the brain resulting in meningitis." Phillpotts underwent minimally invasive skull surgery, with doctors taking a tissue flap from part of his body to cover the wound. "Have you ever been so congested that you can't breathe?" Phillpotts says. "All of sudden you can breathe again and what a relief that was!" For winter worriers, Iloreta points out three signs of brain-fluid leak: intense headaches, salty taste, and nose-run through only one nostril. (In other health news, the feds have released their exercise guidelines.)