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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Advice: The Pharmacy

In America we go to the drugstore, pick up a box of aspirin and call it a day.  In France, the pharmacy is more than just a place for over the counter drugs... I found this out just yesterday. 

For two days I was suffering with a migraine of epic proportions, throbbing in the temples, light would burn my eyes... if I looked left/right it would feel as though the muscles behind my eyes were strained.  It didn't help that everyone is in the center of the city (where I live) nor that it was the day that Tunisian immigrants were shouting and grèving in the street; I escaped into a pharmacy.

Pharmacies in France are a place you go before you see a doctor- in America we often remedy a problem by seeing our HMO; here if you have something small (bad bug bite, hurting knee, sore throat, terrible migraine) you waltz into a pharmacy (which are rampant) and you walk straight up to the pharmacy technician and tell them your problem.

Here, pharmacies are ran by pharmacists who went to special schools and are just as educated as a doctor- a specialist in medicine.  Often privately owned, the medicine ranges in price according to each proprietor's decision, one could have the same medicine as another next door- but 30% cheaper.  The largest difference between home and here is that the pharmacist is perfectly capable of giving you a medicine to help your ailment without going to a doctor. 

I always take a trip to a pharmacist first; they often give me something that can help while I'm uncomfortable.  I also find them to be much more gentle with my awkward French and understanding of my suffering.

Yesterday I got a medicine called 'Migralin' for only 4.50€ that had a mixture of codeine/caffeine/acetemetophin that knocked me out for about an hour but solved my problem of a terrible headache.  Another day I was totally stressed and having anxiety attacks, once I described my issue, I was sold a little solution of drops that immediately cuts my stress... helped me get through my oral examinations and a month with my bro.  Pharmacies are also the only place available to purchase the basics (aspirin, doliprane, special toothpaste, special shampoos and hypo allergic makeup) as there is a specific French law countering the ability to sell these products in grocery store chains.

Here are some great phrases that are helpful for a visit to a Pharmacist:
  • J'ai mal à la tête  I have a head ache
    • Depuis... (number of days)  Since.. (number of days)
    • Ça me fait mal (point or gesture to the area)  I feel bad (point to area)
  • Je me sens pas bien  I don't feel well
  • J'ai mal au ventre (point or gesture to the area)  I have a stomach ache
    • J'ai vomi (how many times) depuis (how long)  I threw up.. (how many times) since (how long)
  • J'étais piqué par une abeille/guêpe  I was stung by a bee/wasp
  • J'ai mal au dent   I have a toothache
  • Je suis très deprimé et plein d'anxieté  I am very depressed and anxious
  • J'ai mal à la gorge  I have a sore throat
  • Je tousse beaucoup  I am coughing alot
  • J'ai le nez qui coule  I have a runny nose
  • J'ai mal aux oreilles  I have sore ears
What is absolutely fascinating to me is the lack of information regarding French pharmacies- most websites describe how to go to a doctor, but not how to deal with the pharmacist- often the first person to go to.  Now, if you have a bad stomach ache or head ache, take a little trip to the pharmacy and hash your way through it- if they speak too fast just apologize, "je suis très désolé", and say, "Je suis américain(e) et le français est nouveau pour moi; parlez lentement s'il vous plaît"


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