What your DOCTOR needs to know
You’ve been using over-the-counter meds or supplements or ‘borrowing’ a friend’s prescription drug.
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.