CBC MARKETPLACE: YOUR HEALTH » COLD/FLU MEDICATIONS
Out in the cold: Over-the-counter
remedies can cause problems for seniors
Broadcast: January 30, 2005
if the flu-fighting tablets you take to get
better actually make you worse?
Trouble can start when older people, like Nick Ciolfitto, take these products.
They can suffer serious, even life-threatening problems.
It's cough and flu season.
Many of us turn to over-the-counter drugs to
get better. Anyone can take pick them up at their local
drug store; there's no prescription required.
But what if the flu-fighting tablets
you take to get better actually make you worse?
That may be the case
for many Canadians, and you likely haven't been warned.
Nick Ciolfitto felt terrible - he was coming
down with a cold.
He was achy and tired – and wanted
to fight off the bug before it got serious.
So Nick went to the drug store and bought
a common over-the-counter cold medication. He had no idea
the pills he was about to swallow would pack a powerful punch.
Nick was up all night, in terrible pain: "I
felt like I was going to die... I've never had a pain like
“I had the urge to go to the bathroom,” he
says. “I tried every 15 minutes and nothing happened.”
Beers Criteria is a list
of medications compiled by leading medical researchers
in the U.S. The list includes drugs the researchers
warn are “highly inappropriate” for
seniors to take, including two ingredients
discussed in this story: diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine.
But something was happening: Nick’s
bladder was shutting down. A few hours later, he ended
up in the emergency ward at the hospital.
The thought that his over-the-counter
cold medication was behind Nick’s problems never
crossed his mind.
“I would think it would
be safe to purchase because it is on the shelf,” he
need a prescription.”
Nick didn’t take a special prescription
to fight off his cold – it was a regular bottle of
cold medication that you can buy off-the-shelf at any drug
find similar products – for cold, cough, or flu – in
Canadians’ homes across the country.
But trouble can start when older people,
like Nick, take these products. They can suffer serious,
even life-threatening problems.