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There are cough syrups and there are cough syrups

Posted Oct 18 2011 10:58am
I have been down with a bad throat infection and congested nose along with fever for the last few days. As usual, I tried some home remedies but did not get better. I then started an antibiotic and a cough syrup. Two more days. No luck.

One evening, my temperature touched 102 degrees Fahrenheit. I then decided it was time to see a doctor. I went over to Sunshine Hospital to meet our family physician, Dr. Kirit Parekh. Dr. Parekh was the one who diagnosed my kidney disease in 1997 and I have been a huge fan since.

Dr. Parekh examined my throat and lungs and asked me to cough. One sound of the cough and he said, "Azethromycin is not going to work for this!" He then went on to prescribe another more potent antibiotic. He also prescribed a cough syrup. Once I was done with the doctor, I rested on a chair in the waiting lounge and asked my mother to pick up the medicines from the pharmacy. She did. I opened the packet just to see what she bought. I realized that the cough syrup that the pharmacist gave was not right.

There are two types of cough syrups. Cough suppressants and expectorants. Suppressants are used in dry coughs and they suppress the urge to cough. Expectorants, on the other hand are used in coughs where you bring out phlegm and they attempt to loosen up the respiratory tract to make it easy for you to bring out all the phlegm.

What I was prescribed was an expectorant. What I was given was a suppressant. Under normal circumstances, I would not have checked. I would have taken the syrup and my cough would have actually got worse because the phlegm would be suppressed inside. Of course, this would be discounting the action of the more important drug under the circumstances - the antibiotic. But you get the drift right?

When I returned the syrup to the pharmacy, the lady at the counter said that there was no expectorant available under that name. I asked for another expectorant that I had used in the past and she gave me that and I started using it.

This is why it is so important for all of us to be proactive when it comes to our health. These days you can never be sure. I believe a degree in pharmacy is required to run a pharmacy. But who cares about what is required? Whenever you buy some medicines, make sure that the name is exactly what is there in the prescription. There are tons of medicines with similar names with an extra suffix. For example you have Norflox and Norflox - TZ. Both are antibiotics but can have different actions. You have Becosules and Becosules - Z. You have many medicines that have a "plus" added. It is easy for the pharmacist to pass off one for the other because he does not want to lose the sale just because he does not have the correct drug. It is entirely up to you to make sure you have been given what you have been prescribed.
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