What your DOC­TOR needs to know

You’ve been us­ing over-the-counter meds or sup­ple­ments or ‘bor­row­ing’ a friend’s pre­scrip­tion drug.

Good Housekeeping (South Africa) - - H E A LT H -

Why it’s key: Non­pre­scrip­tion and ‘nat­u­ral’ reme­dies as well as pre­scrip­tion ones can in­ter­act with other treat­ments. Risky com­bos in­clude Saint John’s wort and an­tide­pres­sants; echi­nacea and cer­tain statins and drugs metabolised by the liver; an an­ti­his­tamine and a pre­scrip­tion seda­tive; and as­pirin and an an­ti­co­ag­u­lant (for ex­am­ple war­farin). Also, ‘if you rou­tinely use over­the-counter non­s­teroidal anti-in­flam­ma­tory drugs [NSAIDs], you could get an ex­ces­sive dose,’ warns Dr David Katz, found­ing direc­tor of the Yale-Grif­fin Pre­ven­tion Re­search Cen­ter in the US. NSAIDs in­clude ibupro­fen (in Advil) and are also found in many cold med­i­ca­tions. Too much of them, says Katz, can harm your kid­neys and your gas­troin­testi­nal tract – and if you don’t speak up, your doc­tor could be in the dark as to what’s go­ing on. Taking a friend’s pre­scrip­tion meds might (be­yond the ob­vi­ous dan­gers) lead your GP to mis­un­der­stand any symp­toms caused by the drug. How to spit it out: Make a list of ev­ery­thing you’ve taken (in­clud­ing herbs) and how of­ten, and hand it to your doc­tor. For in­stance, if you’ve taken a friend’s an­tianx­i­ety drug, turn that con­fes­sion into an op­por­tu­nity to tell your doc­tor about your own anx­i­ety.

It’s awk­ward! You’re nearly naked on the exam ta­ble and your doc­tor rushes in and asks how you are. You blurt out what brought you there – but it’s what you

don’t say that could harm your health. Some re­searchers posit that we may be more hon­est with health apps on our phones than with our doc­tors. ‘Peo­ple don’t set out to lie or omit in­for­ma­tion – they just want their doc­tor to think the best of them,’ says Dr Nieca Goldberg, who spe­cialises in women’s health. So be frank about these is­sues – even if your doc doesn’t ask.

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