Today was a horribly busy day because I had a tech call off sick. But, all was okay in the end. This, unfortunately, left me with very little time to counsel. I felt rushed, which I hate, because I know my patients can feel it too. Oh well. That’s the way it goes some days.
Today’s story is based off a phone call I received shortly before closing. A mother called and started listing what prescriptions her 14 year old daughter takes on a daily basis. I was expecting to hear her ask if they are okay to take together, but what surprised by what followed. She asked if she could take fish oil and calcium supplements at the same time. Truthfully, there were no interactions with any of the teen’s medications, but that was not the most important issue here.
I asked the mom if her daughter’s pediatrician had recommended the use of either of these. She replied no. She said the girl came home from visiting her grandma with a bottle of each. I guess the grandmother had heard somewhere that fish oil was important for immune development and that anyone of the female sex should be taking extra calcium. I told the mom taking fish oil was completely unnecessary for a healthy teenager and that calcium absorption shouldn’t be a problem in most people under the age of 18, as long as they consume healthy amounts of milk and dairy. I finally told the mother that if she did want to give her daughter any supplement, it should be a multivitamin. I also told her to talk with her daughter’s physician before starting anything. She thanked me and hung up.
That phone call was a new experience for me. I’ve heard of parents becoming very health conscious with their kids and having them take all kinds of natural supplements. I never heard of a grandparent overstepping the parents and just giving a grandchild a bottle of vitamins, though. This situation was very wrong for several reasons, the most important being that no one (adult and child alike) should ever start a regular over the counter (OTC) regimen without talking to a healthcare professional first.
What many people don’t realize is that products that are OTC are still “drugs”. They still have side effects and interactions, regardless of how “natural” they are. Many OTC products act in similar ways to prescription medications and can cause the person to essentially “overdose”, even though it may not be a toxic overdose. This can cause health problems and extra side effects. A good example of this is people who decide to take Red Yeast Rice in addition to their “statin” cholesterol medications. Both work in similar fashions, so taking them together increases the risk of side effects.
Another issue that needs to be addressed here is information sources. People today feel that because they read something online, it’s automatically true. Well, guess what? Just because the URL name says iamadoctor.com or everythingmedical.net doesn’t mean it’s accurate. I have seen people on blogs and other user edited websites promoting things that could harm someone. The amount of “likes” and friendly comments scare me because that means people are listening to someone whose medical knowledge probably doesn’t extend past what they’ve seen walking down the vitamin aisle in the grocery store. Listen up readers, if you’re going to listen to somebody, listen to an ACTUAL PERSON unless you know which websites are reliable and backed by good medical studies. Talk to somebody who actually holds a license to tell you the things they are telling you.
To make a long explanation short, if you are ever curious about a supplement or hear that it may be beneficial, talk to a healthcare professional before starting it. Tell them what you already take and what health conditions you have. They can tell you if it’s a good decision to start the supplement. Don’t have time to visit your physician and not sure who to ask? Just look behind the pharmacy counter. You’ll find a medication “expert” who is willing to help you understand and sort through the crazy world of drugs.
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