I recently had a rash on my hands. It was quite a nasty rash, brought on by stress, apparently. I'm one of the most relaxed people I know, and yet, according to the doctor I was stressed and it led to the rash. Personally, I feel I am allergic to something, and my doctor couldn't be bothered finding out...but that's another story.
I was given some cream for the rash. Being a law abiding citizen, I did the honourable thing and read the leaflet, as we are always instructed to do. Not strictly true, normally I don't read the leaflet at all, but having not been paying that much attention to a doctor who thought I was stressed, I needed to know how to use the cream I'd been prescribed.
On the leaflet, there were the usual instructions about how often to use it, but there, at the end of the instructions, was the line "Wash hands after application".
This made me pause.
What exactly is the point of a cream for rashes on hands that you immediately wash off?
This led me to do something I don't normally do, and that was go through the medicine cabinet and read the leaflets.
I suggest you do this too. You've probably, like me, never read the leaflets. They are amazing pieces of writing written by lawyers not doctors.
For example, some sore throat lozenges I have tell me, via the leaflet, that one of the side effects was a sore throat. That's right, the side effect of the sore throat lozenge was a sore throat. How do you know if you are suffering a side effect, or if the lozenge hasn't worked? The same was true of my anti-constipation medicine. Not that it would cause a sore throat, but rather that it would cause constipation, whilst the diarrhoea medicine might cause diarrhoea!
My pain relief tablets tell me not to take more than three doses in any twenty-four period, and yet it also tells me to take a dose every four hours. So I'm stuck if they don't work within half a day.
I have some under-twelve's anti-histamines. They claim, on the box, that they are non-drowsy. Bizarrely, they still instruct the person taking them not to drive. Firstly, they are for kids, and not driving is general life advice. However, if they are non-drowsy, driving should be okay, surely. Even if you are twelve. They also say that you shouldn't drink if you're taking the tablets. They're to be taken with water! How's that possible? And if you're on them for three days, it could get a little dangerous.
Most confusing is my cough mixture. The leaflet says, in big letters, to not have alcohol while taking the cough mixture. One of the ingredients is....you've guessed it....ethanol, which, from my rudimentary chemistry is, alcohol. I'm guessing the reason isn't because it's dangerous, but perhaps instead because it would put you over the limit for driving.
I was half expecting the leaflet for congestion to tell me that the tablets could not be used as a flotation device.
I have decided that the people who write these leaflets need to get a basic understanding of medicine. Instead of law. It might be more useful. I don't think I'll bother reading any more of them.