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Self-medicating at Olympus

Posted by John Powers, Globe Staff  August 4, 2008 12:00 PM

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Traffic moves through haze in Beijing Monday. (Wire Photo)

My Olympic drug bag is bulkier than usual this time. Jammed in among the various antibiotics, painkillers, antacids and sundry unguents are two inhalers and some industrial-strength Visine. When Dr. Kim, my modernly thorough internist, noticed during my annual physical that I had a bit of lingering congestion in my lungs, she promptly wrote out prescriptions for Fluticasone and Albuterol. Fluticasone is a corticosteroid used to treat asthma (which hundreds of Olympic athletes suddenly discover they have when the Games are nigh). Albuterol is a bronchodilator for folks who have trouble breathing.

Dr. Kim knew that I was going to Beijing and she figured the drugs would come in handy on those days when `Greyjing' is particularly polluted with particulates. Like today, when the sun looked like a remote planet with the lights flickering. So I took two puffs of the Fluticasone this morning and headed out into the street. The Albuterol will be held in reserve for the worst days.

Athletes aren't the only ones who self-medicate at Olympus. The media people do, too, just to stay up and running for nearly a month. Those of us who've been to a few Games in places like Sarajevo and Nagano, learned through sometimes painful experience to bring our own stash of remedies just in case we can't find a doctor or a CVS. In 1980, I arrived in Lake Placid with a nasty strep throat, when every breath of the February air felt like a blowtorch. All of the village doctors apparently had rented their houses and jetted off to the Caribbean. So I ducked into a package store on Main Street, bought a large bottle of Russian vodka and did the numbness cure until I could get to the Olympic village and bum a handful of penicillin pills from the US team physician.

Now I bring my own, left over from the prescription that Dr. Pickett, my painless dentist, once gave me after I'd had a root canal on the eve of another Olympics. I'm sure that the pills are well past their use-by date, but it comforts me to have them in my Ziploc. Also in my bag are bottles of Omeprazole and Lansoprazole for acid reflux, Fexofenadine for allergies, a handful of tablets of Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Roxicet (in case a tooth abscesses, as one did at 32,000 feet en route to Moscow), a tube of Erythromycin for conjunctivitis, Bacitracin for cuts and scrapes, Cepastat lozenges for sore throats and a supersized box of chewable Pepto-Bismol for the kind of gastrointestinal rumblings you don't want overseas.

All told, there's enough stuff in my stash to get my medals taken away. The only thing I'm missing is a few Chinese herbal remedies. If I'm feeling a bit droopy, I might drop by the night market, pick up one of those monster ginseng roots as big as your forearm and gnaw on it twice daily. There's always room for another cure-all at the Games.

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3 comments so far...
  1. Why is it that Scott LaPierre's time-lapse video shows pristine blue skies through the whole day and your picture shows gray skies? Biased versus unbiased reporting? Hmmmm........

    Boston's haze on Friday was so gray and heavy that I thought I was in LA which is also gray and heavy everyday. My grandma has trouble breathing in LA too. Did you check out the air quality of LA in the 1950s?

    I'm not saying that you're hypocritical, I'm just saying that you're unfair.

    Posted by Tony August 4, 08 03:53 PM
  1. How the heck did you get all of that through customs?
    Also, how could the IOC ever give the Olympics to a place that looks
    to be in a perpetual eclipse of the sun?

    Posted by Dave Keys August 4, 08 04:20 PM
  1. i'm heading to Beijing tomorrow and am pretty much bringing a pharmacy too, but of all chinese herbs, with the exception of CO-Q10 and melatonin. i'm a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist here in MA, and would love to visit a pharmacy and/or practitioner while i'm there. hope you enjoy your time in beijing!

    Posted by rebs August 4, 08 04:37 PM

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