Medical professionals are getting sloppy these days when they ask about allergies

Many medical professionals seem to have forgotten how to educate patients about drug allergies. They pass on incorrect information about the drugs they are handing to patients.

An allergy refers specifically to a histamine reaction. This includes certain rashes and swollen tongue or swollen face and trouble breathing. This is almost always a medical emergency requiring an epi-pen or antihistimine and people acting quickly. It’s best not to expose the person in the first place and take precautions. However, there are other nasty reactions a person can have, that are also life-threatening, but are certainly not “allergies” but will kill a person and should be taken seriously. So when a doctor, pharmacist, or any person treating a patient asks, “Are you allergic to any drugs?” is this really the correct question to ask?

NO! Not in my humble opinion.  Because shouldn’t patients then answer the question correctly? If you have ever been allergic to certain drugs, which does occasionally happen, then you might answer, “Yes.” But if you were, you’d only be including true allergies, such as drugs that gave you hives or rashes. The question shouldn’t even be asked that way. How about, “Have you ever had a bad reaction to a drug?” This widens the playing field to include
stomach upset
the various reactions to steroids I have heard about
hallucinations (except recreational drugs, which are supposed to do that)
your hair falling out
driving in your sleep
violent behavior (and you are a schoolteacher)
suicidal tendencies (unless you’re a psych patient, because you don’t matter anyway)
homicidal tendencies
inability to concentrate and short term memory deficit causing you to miss an entire semester of school (and you weren’t able to get a refund on your tuition. again, if you’re psych, no one will care)
shaky hands (and you are an eye surgeon)
…..and any other reason why you might never take the darned pill again.

I think also that if a patient tells a doc, “Please do not give me drugs such as Klonopin or Ativan because these is an addicting pills, and I am easily prone to benzo addiction,” you’d hope a prescriber would respect the patient’s wishes. Unfortunately, many are not, or they ignore a patient’s written and well-documented request that he or she not be given such pills.

No matter what the physician’s opinion is of addiction, I think personally he or she should respect the patient’s wishes. I do not have any respect for a physician who says, “It’s okay to take this because it’s only a little addicting.” You would not believe how many times I have heard that, and I don’t have a benzo addiction myself. I saw what they did to other people and I am shocked at the way they were given out like candy. I heard that said to me and to others. Rarely did docs warn of addiction to drugs.

“This pill will not get you hooked.” These statements almost always turn out to be completely false. Or, “It’s okay to take this even though you have a history of benzo and alcohol addiction. Just take it as prescribed.”

Taking a pill as prescribed does not change the chemical nature of the substance nor change your body in any way.  It only means you are now dependent on the doc for your supply. He’s got a steady customer, and you are under his control, financially and otherwise. Not only that, it’s legally sanctioned, unless he dies, commits suicide, or takes too many of his own pills, (or he suddenly leaves town, gee, I wonder why). Then what? Uh oh.

So when they ask, “Do you have any allergies to drugs?” I usually skirt around the question. I reword it. I won’t even answer. I say the following,

“I have been told not to take certain drugs.” Then, I list those drugs or classes of drugs. Or I might say, “I had a very bad reaction to ____ and was told to never take it again.”

Only let’s put it this way: If you really do not want to be given a drug, whatever reaction you had, or tell them you had, it had better be nearly fatal and spontaneous or they might give it to you!

2 thoughts on “Medical professionals are getting sloppy these days when they ask about allergies”

  1. Hi Julie, I agree, they’re way too careless about drug interactions and side effects. When I was seeing a surgeon at the “world famous” Cleveland Clinic (their description, not mine) after he botched bowel surgery, leading me to spend a whole month in rehab with multiple tubes stuck in me and instructions I was not to swallow anything for six weeks except for whatever sips of water were necessary for swallowing pills, he fired off a prescription for Cipro, which I flat-out refused to take. Ditto for the blood thinners I was supposed to take because an inept nurse had shoved an iv feeding tube too far up my arm, causing an ugly crop of clots up the whole length of it. When I signed myself out AMA and a vascular surgeon’s nurse took out the “Hickman” feeding tube they’d installed in my heart after the nurse’s accident with the PIC line, she whispered to me that in 30 years of vascular nursing, she’d seen a lot of clots and I was right to have refused the blood thinners because my clots weren’t the type that would have responded. They eventually dissolved of their own accord, and when the pathologist’s report came back, it turned out I didn’t even have the infection that surgeon prescribed the Cipro for. Oh, I could go on and on, but when I talked to a malpractice attorney, he told me in any of the other 49 states, I would have had a case, but Ohio only allows damages for lost wages and cost of care, not pain and suffering. I wasn’t employed, medicare/medicaid paid for everyting and I was eventually ok, so I didn’t get a cent for the horrorshow they put me through, but after that I moved all my care to University Hospital, which is MUCH more respectful. It’s on my chart that I can’t take narcotics or phenothiazines. I ought to expand the later to cover any antipsychotic.

    1. Thank goodness you knew enough to refuse the Cipro. John it’s really true about the differences between states in regards to those legal entanglements and what’s considered human worth. I have heard that in most states it isn’t worth it to sue for malpractice anyway unless the person damages is (or was) the family breadwinner. That is, if it was a child, forget it. If the person cared for a child, such as a mom or person caring for elderly, this varies state to state. But a person not earning money such as a student, forget it. Too bad they don’t pay for lost years, broken families that otherwise would have stayed together, and careers and hopes that should not have been smashed to bits.

Feedback and comments welcome!