I have a question for you all: If I fall asleep to the sound of a mozzie buzzing around the bedroom and wake up with a bite on my finger, is it logical to assume that said mosquito bit me?
When I showed up to my GP with a swollen finger and hand, pain in my arm, a couple of blood blisters on my finger and a dozen or so tiny blisters running the length of my finger, I told her I’d been bitten by a mosquito. She was doubtful. In all her years of practising, she’d never seen a mozzie bite that looked like this.
Last week, I had a similar bite on my toe. The same blistering pattern but just a little swelling and it didn’t go into my foot. I must have graduated to level 2.
I got some IV antihistamine with steroids and some heavy-duty antibiotics, a warning of possible nausea and fatigue, and instructions to call with an update on Monday.
By the time the train got in last night, I was tired, cranky, and felt like I’d been run over by a bus, twice. Every bone in my body was screaming at me.
I made for the painkillers and thankfully, before popping one, I asked himself to Google possible drug interactions. It’s not something I’d normally even consider but being hospitalised would be a major inconvenience right now.
And it was just as well I did. From screwing with my heart to causing hallucinations, the list was scary. I settled on ibuprofen. What would I have done, I wondered, pre-1990s, pre-Larry Page? No doctor ever knows what drugs we’re hoarding. They can’t be expected to list every possible interaction, can they? I’ve stopped reading the paperwork that comes with my pills as the list of possible side effects can be quite suggestive.
I found a new word…
polypharmacy: taking more than five prescription drugs a day.
And from various articles I’ve read, even the sensible Canadians are indulging with one in four over 65 taking 10 a day. And that doesn’t include the vitamins and the supplements. Americans top the list though.
It’s a culture, say the experts we consulted, encouraged by intense marketing by drug companies and an increasingly harried healthcare system that makes dashing off a prescription the easiest way to address a patient’s concerns.
I remember when my usual doctor wasn’t available, I had to go to another at the practice. I came away with five different prescriptions for flu-like symptoms. I filled none of them. I was grand in a couple of days. There’s a balance between going to the doctor at the first sneeze or leaving it until that sneeze has developed into pneumonia. No one wants to regret not going when they should have gone.
I’m all for preventive medicine, for checkups, for scans and such that might give an inkling of what’s down the road. And I’m lucky to live in a country where I can usually get a same-day MRI – I don’t have to wait days or weeks. Friends in other countries don’t have that luxury. I had a control scan yesterday – 43000 ft (€120/$140). I got the results today but this time I’m not opening them until there’s a doctor in the room. I’ve learned my lesson.
I know people who rarely if ever go to the doctor. They don’t take pills. They struggle through it and seem to do fine. I know others who take an eye-watering number of pills and are on first-name terms with their GP’s parents. I’m somewhere in between. If I can keep my imagination under control, I do well, but when I start imagining the worst…
I need to educate myself about the prescription drugs I take. I need to familiarise myself with the active ingredients and read up on the interactions. My days of blindly swallowing what’s served up to me are over.
Learn which active ingredients are in the prescription and OTC medicines you take so that you don’t take more than one medicine that contains the same active ingredient(s). For example, if your cough syrup contains acetaminophen, don’t take it at the same time as a pain reliever that contains acetaminophen. Taking more than one medicine with the same active ingredient could result in getting too much of that ingredient, which could damage your liver or lead to other serious health problems. [,,,] Some OTC drugs, vitamins, and other remedies can lead to serious problems if used too often or with certain other drugs. Combining drugs without talking to your doctor could make you sick.
Drugs aside, given that the mozzie might not be the culprit, I’m on high alert for spiders and anything that has a bit to it. Level 2 was bad enough to rob me of any curiosity as to what Level 3 might look like. If anyone has had a similar bite or reaction, let me know. Knowing the enemy would help.