North Carolina man's runny nose turns out to be leaking brain fluid

JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. — Last Thanksgiving was ruined for Greg Phillpotts and his family after fluid from his nose ran into the food.

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"I was preparing a meal and standing in the kitchen and it just added itself to the ingredients -- it screwed up the whole dinner," said Phillpotts.

Phillpotts said he had been battling what he thought were allergies for the last five years and was even diagnosed him with pneumonia and bronchitis.

"You could be anywhere. You could be on the airplane, you could be talking to anybody and this thing just drains out of your face," he said.

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Phillpotts said it became normal for him to use tissue to stuff his nose until February, when he was up all night coughing.

"You're sitting here, you're a family man; you don't want to check out of the picture when it's something someone could readily fix," he said.

Photo Courtesy: WTVD

Finally, he saw Dr. Alfred Iloreta at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and quickly learned it was a cerebrospinal fluid leak.

"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," Dr. Iloreta said. "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."

Doctors performed minimally invasive skull surgery on Phillpotts using a flap of tissue taken from his body to correct the leak.

[RELATED: Infection causes strange behavior in children often misdiagnosed as mental illness]

"Have you ever been so congested that you can't breathe?" Phillpotts said. "All of sudden you can breathe again and what a relief that was."

Doctor Iloreta said to look out if you have a runny nose on one side of your nostril with a salty taste paired with intense headaches.

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