Patient care is of paramount importance to a physician. Beyond the prescription, your doctor is there to put you at ease, advise you and allay your fears. So to help us better help you, here is a list of five things your doctor doesn’t want you to do!
Googling your symptoms
This one is at the top of almost every doctor’s list. Whenever a patient comes to me with medical jargon up his sleeve, I immediately recognize him as the Burning Googler. Excessive online research does little for a patient in pain except to increase fear. It takes us more time and effort to explain everything they googled and ruminated on. If by any chance the patient is prone to anxiety, then Google just sends them into a spiral. Patients who try to decode every parameter of their blood or urine reports prepare to suspect the worst. Often times, as physicians, we find ourselves teaching them medical physiology to allay their fears rather than counseling them for the disease from which they arose. Plus, when a patient’s normal report is examined under a microscope, they can’t help but feel overwhelmed by all the medical jargon the Internet throws at them.
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Trying non-prescription drugs
When the covid pandemic hit, functional OPDs were scarce and patients had to resort to online consultations. Patients who had contracted covid, in particular, were ready to do anything to get better. Whether it’s the acid-causing kadhas or the cut-and-paste prescription of their sick-ridden parent – they’ve tried it all. I had seen patients who mixed and even matched prescriptions from different doctors. By the time they see a doctor for their diagnosis, they have already started taking several medications and the doctor is scratching their head. Medications are often not needed in the patient’s case, or the patient may need monitoring for a specific medication. Additionally, drugs interact with each other, and if you are a pre-existing patient with a disease, your prescription will be very different from someone else’s.
Beginning of antibiotics on the advice of the pharmacist
Regulations in India are quite loose for prescription drugs (they are sold as over the counter drugs). Even in metropolitan cities, we see pharmacists prescribing antibiotics to patients who have not seen a doctor for some reason. The freedom with which they start antibiotics for something as simple as food poisoning or a cold is alarming to say the least. This blind disregard for the misuse of antibiotics adds to the burden of increasing antibiotic resistance in the medical world. Simply put, resistance to antibiotics develops when bacteria exposed to these drugs develop ways to escape the effect of the drug. Soon we will be left with superbugs and substandard drugs as bacteria that come into contact with antibiotics develop resistance to them, rendering them useless. The dose and number of days the drug is prescribed is often incomplete, adding resistance to antibiotics.
Avoid fresh produce and go for multivitamins
Multivitamins are as standard as they come. Taking them gives you a feeling of well-being even if they do little for your body. Most vitamin supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and manufacturers can claim any benefits they want on the package. Vitality? To verify. Increased libido? Recheck. Glowing skin, plump hair, stealthy abs? Check, verify and verify. Aside from the fact that their production and distribution is not federally regulated like other drugs, multivitamins are not readily available to the body compared to the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Taking a vitamin pill will give you a false sense of security that you are eating adequate even if you are not eating well. This false sense of security has led many people to continue to ignore fresh produce and go for a candy.
Going too far with multivitamins is another big no, as certain minerals and vitamins can lead to many side effects when taken in excessive amounts. An overdose of vitamin A can put you at risk for liver problems, lung cancer and reduced bone strength. Too much iron supplementation can cause heartburn, spots on the gums, and liver problems. Aside from overdose, the trend for vitamin gummies can put children and adults alike at risk of developing obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes if consumed regularly. The high sugar content of these gummies and the alleged absence of side effects can lead consumers to abuse them. That being said, multivitamins are the cornerstone of treatment for certain deficiency disorders, particularly vitamin D (common in urban areas) and vitamin B12 deficiency (common in vegetarians). Eat a healthy diet, because a pill cannot replace the benefits of fresh foods, and take the pill if your doctor tells you to.
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Mix and match therapy modalities
Often, patients get a second and third opinion on their allopathy treatment. But when it comes to complementary medicines like Ayurveda, Homeopathy and Unani, confidence is often blind. Since these branches of drugs are perceived as “natural”, it is concluded that they are harmless and devoid of side effects (read – no “harmful” chemicals). Let me say it out loud – everything is a chemical. The water you drink is a chemical just like your thyroid medicine. And medications prescribed by branches of alternative medicine should always be shared with your doctor. Many drugs interact and often make side effects worse. So either you stick to one branch of medicine for your ailments or be sure to give your doctor a full history.
Dr Farah Adam Mukadam is a Bengaluru-based family physician and author of the book Newborns and New Moms. She blogs on Instagram and YouTube as Dr Farah_Momstein