These are the thoughts of a cantankerous ol' gynecologist who remembers when things were a little different. I try to find a little humor in my life and the people I meet along the way. Come meet the characters in my world.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Is It a Side Effect or an Allergy?

Let me help you figure it out!

Every place you go to get health care, you are asked, and “Do you have any allergies?”

I love to see the responses to that question.  Now, folks, we are really serious about this.  We need to know if a medication caused a reaction severe enough that you should not take it again, because the next time it just might kill you.  Most doctors get mighty upset about that!  There is a difference between a reaction and an allergy.

A reaction is anything that happened when you took a medication.  We do need to know about those.  If you had a headache, diarrhea, muscle cramps etc., you might not want to take the medication again.  If it is the only medication that will work for your problem, your doctor can help you prevent or treat the side effects.  These are generally only “nuisances”. 

An allergy is a reaction that involves your immune system.  These cause symptoms like: itchy or watery eyes, runny nose, wheezing, itching, shortness of breath, heart irregularity and (dum-da-da-dum) death.  These are important to know about.  Each time you are exposed to something you are allergic to, the reaction is generally more severe.  Enough exposure can be fatal. 

Did you see “death” up there after the “music”?  A doctor does not want to give you this medication again if possible.  It is very important to tell your doctor about these.

If you’re not sure, describe what happened.  Some helpful medical person will help you decide.  Make sure to write down the medication somewhere.  Carry a card or something with you so you can tell the next doctor or nurse what the name of the medication was and what happened.  It will make taking care of you much easier.  Really.  Honest.  Would I be taking my time to write this if it didn’t?

We don’t want to hear:

“My Mom said I can’t take Penicillin.  I don’t know why.”  Please find out.

“I had a reaction to the white blood pressure pill.” Many generics are white.

“I’m allergic to xyz - it made me sleepy.”  That may be what it’s supposed to do.

We do want to know:

“When I took Gorillacillin, I developed a rash, itching and trouble breathing.”  Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

“After they gave me Superdrug, I had to have a shot and steroids for a week for my allergic reaction.”  OK, I believe you’ve got a problem.

See the difference?  I hope this helps you be ready the next time you talk to your doctor or go to the emergency room.

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