Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Go Ask Alice...but only if she's a pharmacist

One thing that we stock up on when we get the chance to is American over-the-counter drugs. Gimme those sweet, sweet blue gel-caps with 200 mg of Ibuprofen rattling around in their white, child-proof plastic castle of relief.  If you've ever taken a 50mg ADULT painkiller in Switzerland, you'd sound like a slobbering junkie too.

There is a whole process that one must go through here in Switzerland with medical issues.  First, normal everyday things are usually taken care of with a visit to the pharmacist.  Let me just preface this with a statement: Swiss pharmacists are a wealth of knowledge.  Once you get past being modest, they are great.

That being said, something fairly minor going on?  One goes to the Apotheke and suffers a barrage of seemingly quite personal questions.  Very personal questions, and sometimes not using what an elementary school teacher would describe as an  "inside voice."  There are no isles of browsable, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals here.  Not even aspirin, hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol is available just willy-nilly.  You must be investigated.

My first encounter with this was when I went to buy castor oil for some hippy-dippy hair mask recipe that a friend had recommended to me.  Feeling all one with the Earth Mother that day and ready to embrace the natural cosmetic powers of the castor bean, I decided that I simply had to try it.  *Just for the record, it was awful and I don't recommend putting something so sticky in your hair and expecting to come out of the ordeal looking glamorous with a 1/3 of your hair plastered to the side of your bathtub.*  So proud of myself for learning how to ask for castor oil in German, I went to see the pharmacist.

I should have known that the whole interchange was going to be uncomfortable.  Anyone who had castor oil around their house as a kid probably knows it from taking it as a folk remedy for constipation.  It works, perhaps a little better than one might expect, which I think prompted the development of more modern, gentler methods.  Here is pretty much how the conversation went:

Me: Hi, I'd like to purchase some castor oil.

Pharmacist (typing in her database and looking concerned when she reaches the usage results): What is the problem?  How do you plan to use it?

Me: I plan to put it in my hair.

Pharmacist: In your hair?! That's not a good idea.  Who told you to do this?

Me (lying): My doctor.

Pharmacist: This is usually taken for constipation.

Me: Yes, I know.

Pharmacist: Are you constipated?

Me: No

Pharmacist: Are you bowel movements regular?  Can you describe them?

*Note there are about 10 people behind me in line and German does not lend itself well to being a whispered language*

Me: Ummm....yes? They're fine.  Really, I'm not going to eat it.

Pharmacist: Huh...well okay.  But I don't recommend putting it in your hair.  I'm going to include the dosage for this just in case you are constipated.  Might I recommend some other medicines for constipation?  These might work better.  We have this tea here...

There is always some herbal tea.  Herb tea is the cure-all here.  I thought I was imagining this until I had a German lesson on going to the doctor.  Guess what?  All the dialog was about how someone who is sick should drink more herbal tea.  Luckily, even if the tea is psychosomatic in effect, it works.

So I raise a cuppa to you, readers.  To your health!