Patient care is of paramount importance to a doctor. Aside from prescribing, your doctor is there to make you comfortable, counsel you and alleviate your fears. So to help us help you better, here is a list of five things your doctor does not want you to do!
Googling your symptoms
This one is on the top of pretty much every doctor’s list. Whenever a patient comes to me with medical jargon up his sleeve, I immediately recognise him as the ardent Googler. Excessive online search doesn’t do much for a suffering patient except multiply fears. It takes us extra time and effort to explain every single thing they have googled and ruminated upon. If, by any chance, the patient is prone to anxiety, then Google just sends them down a spiral. Patients who try to decode every parameter of their blood or urine reports are setting themselves up for suspecting the worst. Often, we as doctors find ourselves teaching them medical physiology to assuage their fears rather than counsel them for the illness they came from to us with. Also, when a normal report is put under the microscope by the patient, they can’t help but feel overwhelmed by all the medical jargon the internet throws their way.
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Trying on medications without prescription
When the covid pandemic had hit, functioning OPDs were sparse, and patients had to resort to online consultations. Patients who had contracted covid, especially, were willing to try everything to get better. So be it the acidity-causing kadhas or copy-pasting from their covid-recovered relative’s prescription – they tried it all. I had seen patients who even mixed and matched prescriptions from different doctors. By the time they consult a doctor for their diagnosis, they have already started on multiple medications, and the doctor is left scratching his head. The medicines are often not required in the patient’s case, or the patient might need monitoring for a specific medication. Besides, drugs interact with one another, and if you are a pre-existing patient for an illness, your prescription will look very different from someone else’s.
Starting antibiotics on the advice of the pharmacist
Regulations in India are rather loose for prescription medication (they are sold just like over-the-counter medicines). Even in metropolitan cities, we see pharmacists prescribing antibiotics to patients who didn’t visit a doctor for whatever reason. The freedom with which they start antibiotics for something as simple as food poisoning or the common cold is alarming, to say the least. This wanton disregard for the misuse of antibiotics adds to the burden of rising antibiotic resistance in the medical world. In simple words, antibiotic resistance develops when bacteria exposed to these drugs develop ways to escape the drug’s effect. Soon we will be left with superbugs and inferior drugs as the bacteria coming in contact with the antibiotics build resistance to them, rendering them useless. The dose and number of days the medication is prescribed for are often incomplete, adding antibiotic resistance.
Skip fresh produce and go for multivitamins
Multivitamins are as standard as they come. Taking them gives you a sense of well-being even if they do scanty little to your body. Most vitamin supplements are not FDA regulated, and the manufacturers can claim whatever benefits they please on the packaging. Vitality? Check. Increased sex drive? Double-check. Glowing skin, luscious hair, peeking abs? Check, check and check. Aside from the fact that their production and distribution are not under federal regulation, as are other drugs, multivitamins are poorly available to the body compared to eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Popping a vitamin pill will give you a false sense of security that your nutrition is adequate even if you are not eating well. This false sense of security has led many people to continue skipping fresh produce and opting instead for a gummy.
Going overboard with multivitamins is another big no as some minerals and vitamins can lead to many side effects when taken in excessive amounts. An overdose of vitamin A can put one at the risk of liver problems, lung cancer and reduce bone strength. Excessive iron supplementation can cause heartburn, staining of gums and liver problems. Aside from the overdose, the vitamin gummies trend can put children and adults alike at the risk of developing obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes if consumed regularly. The high sugar content of these gummies and the purported absence of side effects can make consumers go overboard with their consumption. That being said, multivitamins do form the cornerstone of treating certain deficiency disorders, particularly Vitamin D (common in urban setups) and Vitamin B12 deficiency (common in vegetarians). Eat a healthy diet as a pill cannot replace the goodness of fresh food, and pop the pill if prescribed by your doctor.
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Mixing and matching therapy modalities
It is often the case that patients get second and third opinions on their allopathy course of treatment. But when it comes to complementary medicine like Ayurveda, homoeopathy and Unani, the trust is often blind. Since these branches of medicines are perceived as ‘natural’, it is concluded to be harmless and devoid of side effects (read- no ‘harmful’ chemicals). Let me say this out loud - everything is a chemical. The water you drink is a chemical just the way your thyroid medicine is. And the medications prescribed by alternate medicine branches should always be shared with your physician. Many drugs interact and often aggravate side effects. So, either you stick to one branch of medicine for your ailments or be sure to give a thorough history to your treating doctor.
Dr Farah Adam Mukadam is a Bengaluru-based family physician and author of the book Newborns and New Moms. She vlogs on Instagram and YouTube as Dr Farah_Momstein