Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Allergies, Asthma and the Pharmacy

You marvel at the sights and sounds the City of Light has to offer. The Eifel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame, not to mention the plethora of cafes all capture your attention. You plan your day accordingly with what you wish to do next. In fact, you are dripping with enthusiasm, but
unfortunately your nose is dripping from the cold you acquired along the way. That's okay. There are pharmacies on practically every street corner. You will recognize them instantly from blocks away because of the prominent green medical cross flashing different designs at you.

So, with the ubiquitous amount of pharmacies out there, you inevitably think you can run into one of them and pick up some Nyquil, but alas, that is not the case. They do not carry that here! What will you do? Your French isn't on par enough to tell the pharmacist that you have a cold (which, by the way, is rhume).

You can pretend to sneeze and maybe he will get it. However, I once heard a story from a friend how her Portuguese mother, who didn't speak French at the time, told a French doctor that she had a cold and wanted some medication.  Unfortunately, he misinterpreted the meaning and prescribed medicine for constipation.  Hmm, somehow I don't think that is what she had in mind.

Of course, it is probably best to carry a dictionary.  Pointing at words and phrases in the book will certainly work.  However, if that is too much trouble, then just know that Fervex is the answer to your cold symptoms. If reading French is a problem for you, just take one packet and pour it into hot water.  Stir. Then, drink up.  You will only want to take it at night as it promotes drowsiness. I took some just last night and most of my cold symptoms from yesterday have moved through its course. Yahoo!
So, that answers that, but what about skin allergies? I have lived here awhile and have long since ran out of my lotions, creams and soaps that work for my sensitive dry skin. Soaps are a no-no for people like me with chronic dermatitis and exzyma. If I were shopping at home I would know exactly what to buy. In fact, no one ever guesses that I have skin problems. However, being abroad has been all about trial and error for me.

What I have discovered thus far is that Marseilles gels and laits (milk cleansers) work perfectly for my body and can easily be found in the local supermarché (supermarket).  They are relatively inexpensive, which also helps with the pocketbook. Plus, they have an array of nice scents to suit your individual taste.

That's all well and good for the bulk of my body, but for washing my even more sensitive face, that is a different story. What works best for me is Lipikar Surgras Douche-Creme Concentree Anti-Dessechment by La Roche-Posay. Whew, that was a long one. It can be found at the parapharmacies that I will discuss below.

As for lotions, I have tried every lotion from the grocery store here only to find I was allergic to them all. I became so desperate, I had a friend who was visiting the U.S. pick up two large bottles of my lotion while she was there. The poor girl had to carry the heavy containers in her already overstuffed suitcase.  Needless to say, I am grateful.

I then ran out of my Progres Eye Cream made by Lancome that I have used for the last twenty years. Much to my chagrin, Lancome doesn't make the product anymore and I am allergic to all their other eye creams that they sell in France. I tried practically everything I could, but my eyes reacted badly to them all. Waking up every day with red, swollen eyelids that would eventually calm down after putting a cold damp cloth on them for several hours, only to leave severe wrinkling and flakiness I normally do not have.  To give you perspective, my normally smooth skin looked like those from an ill eighty-year-old.  Well, that wouldn't do.

After six weeks of this hell, I then discovered the parapharmacie. When the prefix para- is attached to the front of pharmacie, it essentially means the store is much larger than the typical mom & pop supermarkets that are scattered around every neighborhood.  This invariably also means, their health care and cosmetic departments are more ample, as well. So, this is the place to shop for your skin care. Vichy is a fabulous brand that works for my eyes as well as my face in general. You may have to spend more, but who cares, your face will be happy you did! After using my Vichy cream around my eyes, the swelling and wrinkling went away almost immediately and my skin is back to its youthful look. THANK YOU VICHY!
...and I am not forgetting you asthma patients.  As an asthmatic myself I have had to purchase a few inhalers during my time in France.  Of course, you will need a prescription to replace your order. Doctors here are generally only 22€ if you do not carry French insurance. To tell the physician you have asthma say, "J'ai l'asthma."  The meds will be different, but I think they are on par with what we have at home.

So, the moral of the story is to not worry. There is no need to spend hundreds of dollars shipping supplies over from the States or having friends do your shopping for you while they are at home. You will find things here eventually. You just may have to do a little work to get there—but, that is okay. Paris is worth the effort!

Thank you for reading and bonne journée!

Please note that I am not a physician. These are just some of the things that have worked for me. Please consult your doctor before trying any of the products listed above.