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All that glitters is not gold

An evening newscast recently lifted my spirits temporarily with the announcement that a new drug for the relief of headaches, arthritis, sinusitis, and other so called minor aches and pains would soon be available for purchase over the counter.

My enthusiasm was short-lived as “Dr. Bob” confirmed an oft-repeated truism of my mother’s, “All that glitters is not gold.”

I learned that the drug is basically safe if taken as directed. Of course there is the usual list of ailment that if I suffer from, the medicine can be harmful. I may have to get a replay on it, but the way I understood it, very severe consequences might result if a person has, among other things, a heart condition.

I look forward to picking up a package of the stuff and read the warnings on the bottle. I expect it to be a repeat of what one finds on the container of almost every other over-the-counter pain killer.

The hay fever and allergy season for me is almost the entire year, so I’m always on the lookout for anything that might offer relief. Drug stores and supermarkets have shelves loaded down with pills, capsules, pastes, salves, syrups, drops, atomizers, and many other forms of pain killers, all of which are good for something.

The only problem is, one has to be in pretty good health generally, or some of them might do more harm than good.

Last winter I decided I was going to get through the frigid weather without seeing a doctor, so I went to the drug store to get a good supply of over-the-counter remedies. The first thing I looked at was those little capsules that have all of the little red and white soldiers. I always like those because I could imagine each of those little colored balls going to work on the germs.

Every brand I picked up had about the same warning. It went something like this, “Do not continue to take this product if symptoms do not improve or are accompanied by a fever that lasts three or more days, or if new symptoms occur, consult a physician. Do not take this product if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, diabetes, or kidney ailment, or enlargement of the prostate. If you are pregnant or nursing a baby seek advice of a health professional before taking. Do not take product if you are presently taking a prescription drug for high blood pressure or depression without consulting a physician first.”

I’ll say this much about that. After a person reaches senior citizen status that person will very likely be suffering from at least one of those ailments.

I moved on to the cough syrup department and the warnings were about the same, except they added that if the cough persists over a period of weeks I should consult a physician.

I decided that if I couldn’t find any capsules or cough syrup, maybe some calcium, iron and Vitamin D might keep me healthy. I read the entire label and felt pretty good about it until I cam to the very end where I found a short statement that scared me away. “Contains iron which can be harmful in large doses. In case of overdose, contact a physician or poison control center immediately.” I put the container back on the shelf.

After giving up on finding anything to relieve the pain, because of all those warnings, a little bottle at the end of the shelf caught my eye. Across the top of the blue label were the soothing words, “Sleep tonite, try Nite Nite,” that might do the trick. If I couldn’t beat the pain I could sleep through it.

Then I read the warning: “Consult a physician if you are taking prescription or over-the-counter antidepressant drug, or if sleeplessness persists continuously for over two weeks.” This was followed by a caution, “Do not operate machinery while taking this product. May cause drowsiness.”

As a last resort, I started to get a container of nasal spray, but while I was trying to decide which brand I wanted, a friend came by. He gave me a very stern look and said, “My doctor told me that stuff will kill you.”

I thanked him and hurried out the door, went home, and called for an appointment with my family doctor, which I should have done in the first place.

-Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.



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