Tag Archive | medicine

Cure worse than the malady

Kitten in a blanket.

I just want to stay under the covers.

Once again, because the pollen counts have been high, and some new species had begun releasing pollen, I hoped that the really awful symptoms that started last Tuesday was just really bad hay fever.

One of the last tattered shreds of my denial was stripped away when I started coughing at the office Thursday. Since a lot of other people were coughing that day, at least I can’t be solely to blame if a bunch of people are out sick, again.

Thursday evening my left ear clogged. By Friday morning I had a slight ear ache, a sore (rather than merely scratchy) throat, a cough the woke me up several times, and had been sweating all night, again.

Friday is normally a work from home day for me. The doctor was able to work me in fairly quickly. While the physician’s assistant said I had no fever (98.4 is a fever for me), when the doctor check later, she said, “98.4! That’s a fever for you!” because she’s seen how when I’m not sick I often had a temperature of 95 or lower.

She is fairly certain that I don’t have a bacterial infection in the ear and sinuses. She told me to avoid being around people until my fever was totally gone, as I was not just certainly contagions, by certainly very contagious.

Because of the cough, she was going to prescribe the usual codeine cough syrup, but while she was pulling the information up on the computer to send the prescription to my pharmacy, she noticed that my insurance now considers that a mid-level drug with the higher co-pay, but there’s a fancier version of the codeine cough syrup, that’s timed-released, and has antihistamines in addition to the cough suppressant, which is in the lowest tier for my insurance.

She said this stuff is more reliable for keeping the cough and other symptoms down long enough to get a good night’s sleep, and the only thing I would need to remember is that I shouldn’t take anything else that has antihistamines in it while I’m on the syrup.

Seemed like a good idea to me.

I’ve been having nightmares since I got on the stuff. Each time I took a nap Friday, and throughout Friday night, I had nightmares. One of them so disturbing that, even though I’m not normally a superstitious person, I can’t make myself say what it was for fear it might come true.

I re-read up on the side effects, and they did mention that hallucinations is a very rare side effect, but the old codeine cough syrup I’ve been on before lists that, as well. So I wasn’t complete sure it was the cough syrup that was doing it.

The doctor had told me I only needed to use it at night, but could use it in the day if the cough was bothering me. So I experimented not taking it in the daytime. I’ve been having to stop and nap every three or four hours since Friday morning, so I slept a couple times where none of the stuff was in my system.

No nightmares.

Late Saturday night I was coughing and had the sore itchy eyes, so I took a spoonful before going back to bed.

No coughing fits woke me in the middle of the night. But two different nightmares did.

So, I’m not sure that the benefit of no coughing fits waking me up is worth the downside of the nightmares. Admittedly, the night I was last coughing, I was woke up far more than two times with the coughing, sore throat, et cetera. I suppose that’s an improvement.

I think next I will trying taking only half a spoonful at bedtime?

Warning: may prove harmful or fatal…

We put warning labels on all sorts of things. Sometimes people ignore them.

The only prescription allergy medicine that ever really eliminated my hay fever symptoms carried a warning about fatal heart problems that could happen if you took it at the same time you were taking certain antibiotics. A few years later, the warning list expanded to include additional prescription drugs. And then it had to be expanded, again, to include several over-the-counter medications and other substances.

Enough people ignored the warnings and had heart attacks, sometimes fatal, to cause the FDA to re-evaluate the drug. Their research indicated that most people would not heed the warnings about the over-the-counter drugs particularly. You know how some people are, “It’s not a real drug! It’s like aspirin!” So it was disapproved for sale in the U.S.

I didn’t want to have a heart attack, of course, but I really liked being free of the allergy symptoms. Several new drugs had been approved about the time that this one was removed that were supposed to do the same thing. Studies show that, for most people, the new drugs did at least as well as the old one, and a lot of people found one of them much better. Also, there hasn’t been much in the way of harmful side effects for the others.

Unfortunately, I’m not one of the people for whom any of the alternatives work as well. Sometimes I wish that I could go to the FDA and sign a waiver that neither I nor my heirs can ever sue over any problems with the drug, and keep taking it. The misery of really bad hay fever days makes the risk seem inconsequential.

During those days, I really resent the sorts of people who don’t pay attention to warning labels. Almost as if they are intentionally making life less pleasant for some of us.

At the other end of the spectrum are people who are overly-wary of warning labels. They know that some medications carry a long list of warnings, and they just don’t want to risk any of them. Part of the problem is that it is difficult to communicate risk on a small label, particularly to Americans, where mathematical education in public schools has long been inadequate. I remember one time trying to explain to someone that the odds of most of the harmful side effects of medications approved for sale in the U.S. are significantly lower than the chances of dying in an elevator accident. “Well, at least with an elevator, you have a chance to try to jump before the fall!”

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at the number of ways that retort was wrong.

Of course, risk assessment isn’t a simple matter. For instance, a lot of people like to point out that statistically stairs are hundreds of times riskier than elevators. That’s only true if by riskier you mean the number of injuries and deaths that occur in a given year, rather than the number that occur per use. One reason more accidents happen on stairs than in elevators is because people use stairs more often than they use elevators.

Things become even more murky when you find out that half of the fatalities associated with elevators are maintenance and construction workers doing some sort of repairs near an elevator shaft. Even more surprising, almost one quarter of the fatalities associated with elevators fall into the category of people leaning against closed elevator doors while waiting for an elevator, or people not looking and simply stepping into the shaft when the doors open.

Leaning against an elevator door? Really?

I understand why someone such as myself is willing to risk some possible side effects in order to escape the misery of weeks of sinus headaches, itchy eyes, and scratchy throats. But why on earth would someone lean on an elevator door?

%d bloggers like this: