The 3 downsides to using cough and cold medicines and what to do instead

Happy New Year my dear readers!

To kick off the year holistically, I'd like to begin challenging the hard stuff. 

Using easily available medications might seem innocuous and harmless once in a while, but think again.  What are we really doing here?  Are we working with or against your body?

As a holistically minded physician, I'm a believer in working with, not against the body.

Here's my take on such drugs whose main purpose is merely to suppress symptoms that are too troublesome for us to accept.

Photo by FotografiaBasica/iStock / Getty Images

The problem lies with our lifestyle expectations, and life on the fast pace.  We no longer have the community's patience towards our own needs.  We also treat ourselves harshly, as a result of others' (and our own) expectations of our bodies and minds.  

Lets get down to the three downsides.

Suppressing symptoms jeopardises recovery

Stopping mucus, and sneezing with antihistamines and decongestants, we impede the body’s natural mechanism to physically wash out germs.  While this is convenient and we can get through the day not even realising we have a cold when we actually have one, this brings in the risk of chronic infection.

Drugs that stop us from washing germs out with mucus fights against the body’s own mechanisms for self cleaning.  The body has to work harder and in more imaginative ways to clear infections.  

In the case of infants and young children, cough medicines can impair their ability to clear phlegm and lead to a worse congestion

The body requires a fever to fight infection

Yes, a certain level of fever is actually good for you.  It has been shown that an important type of immune calls, the T-cells that fight viruses and cancer, require a higher temperature to be effective.  

It is only dangerously high temperatures that need controlling, with a health professional.  

Drugs are foreign substances that may not be removed efficiently from the body.

Yes, this is a reminder that nothing about drugs are natural, and while there is a role for them in a spectrum of care that is offered to the patient, we must know its limitations.  

Drugs invariable tax the liver to metabolise and clear them out of the body.  Many a time, metabolites do not clear out completely.  This is in the case of synthetic hormones, and certainly for paracetamol (acetaminophen).

There have been cases of fatal liver failure associated with ingesting as little as 10 paracetamol pills.

There you have it!

The three reasons why we should think twice before reaching to drugs in order not to face the consequences of being ill.

Being ill is a part of life, especially for children, where it is normal to catch a virus or cold once a month, in order to build up their immune system towards better resistance.  Lack of this natural immune stimulation leads to a skew of the immune cells towards autoimmunity, which is another topic altogether.

The holistic approach to illnesses

While a balanced viewpoint must be kept, and drugs may need to be used in certain situations, having a holistic approach has the long term effect of working with your body not against it, in the long run. 

Herbs or nutrients may be used, complimentary therapies that address the Qi and energy systems, and healing touch, sound, art, and access to the spirit and soul.

What is the meaning of this illness for you? 

Simply waving it off with over the counter medications and "Keeping calm and carrying on" may miss an opportunity to investigate a nutrient deficiency, or even a lifestyle habit which may be causing the low immunity. 

If there is an immunity issue, we must address the reasons underlying that.  

This generation is so used to numbing and carrying on, and it is to the detriment of our spirits that we approach life this way.

To discuss your needs in greater depth do book a consult today!

Expert Advice: 12 Tips for Choosing a Family Doctor

Whether you’re new to Singapore or have a new bub (and new medical needs), Dr. Cheryl Kam gives top tips on how to find the best family doctor to suit your needs

[This article was first published on Sassymama]

Welcome to Singapore!

You might be an expat, or a local who has spent some time abroad, and now looking to establish a relationship with a good family physician to for your family to grow with. You’re in the right place!

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The current system

Most private GPs in Singapore run on a walk in basis and have their own dispensary.  This is convenient, and many even open in the evenings.

Private walk-in GP clinics may accept corporate insurance cards, a common employment perk in Singapore.  

For those that hold such a card, little or no payment is needed for simple primary care needs.  

Such a clinic tends to be catered to quick solutions for simple ailments like the cough and cold.  

It often takes a little searching around to find  doctors that are able to offer longer appointment times.

Seeing a specialist

Seeing a specialist is incredible easy; simply pick up the phone and call for an appointment!

There is no referral requirement except for insurance purposes, for which you will have to jump through some simple hoops. 

Read on…

If you have private insurance you may pay first and claim later. Those who hold corporate insurance cards tend to need a referral letter from a General practitioner who is on their panel of approved clinics, to have their specialist fee covered by insurance.

For Singaporeans, to get access to the public health specialists in government institutions, as well as to use their Medisave money to pay for their treatments, you must first see a polyclinic doctor for their referral letter.

Each insurance policy is different and it is worth knowing about yours in detail, especially where specialist referrals and emergency coverage is concerned.




How to pick a good family doctor

  1. A good primary care physician will be able to (and happy to) help you manage simple ailments at home, or even educate about over the counter medicines you can use.
  2. Long waiting times are no longer the only sign of a good doctor. In modern times, respect is paid to the patient’s time, and business processes are sleeker to allow for timely appointments.
  3. Get past the receptionist! Yes, good staff are hard to come by. While a good receptionist might be pivotal in helping you feel welcome, I would not judge a clinic by their receptionist.
  4. Your doctor should never rush you.
  5. Are you compatible?  Some factors to consider: Does the doctor listen to you without interrupting? Do they fully answer your questions? Do they explain your diagnosis and treatment, and specify a date for a follow-up visit?
  6. Your doctor is knowledgeable about preventative care, and does not throw a bag of antibiotics at you, at every small illness.
  7. Your doctor doesn’t roll their eyes when they hear you’ve looked something up on Google. These are millenial times! Even doctors look things up on Google (albeit with trained eyes!). After my consults, I often give patients homework to do, and that includes some online reading. Education is key.
  8. You are made to feel like a partner in your health, not a powerless subordinate.
  9. Group or solo? A group practice means when your usual doctor is not around, their colleague can seamlessly pick up the care, if this is important to you. This is relevant if you have young children or tend to need emergency care. With a group practice there may be the benefit of more brains, when a case is a little more esoteric, requiring discussion.
  10. A doctor’s network. When you get onto a doctor’s patient list, you also get access to their network of practitioners. If you get along with your doctor, you are likely to get along with the specialists they recommend, too.
  11. The doctor does not judge you on your uptake of alternative treatments.
  12. It’s the future today. Google your doctor, get connected. Many doctors also put out helpful material online as part of a community effort in improving health awareness.

Studies show that people who have one family doctor as their primary care provider have better health outcomes than those who skip from specialist to specialist.

Further to that, those with family physicians who had a good understanding of holistic care and complementary therapies live 30% longer and spend less on healthcare overall.


Need more advice?  Book a consult today.