Five-syllable words

Doctors often seem to have their own language, speaking in scientific medical terms that often confuse those trying to understand them. Even when a doctor says, “I don’t know,” it can come out as, “The precise mechanism has yet to be fully elucidated.” Seriously, I heard a speaker use those very words at a Q&A session at a recent medical conference.

Inside the hospital, it’s especially bad. Did you get sicker after you were admitted to the hospital? Perhaps a nosocomial, iatrogenic case of pneumonia? That probably means someone didn’t wash their hands and infected you.

In the field of allergy, we describe hives as “urticaria” and swelling as “angioedema.” It’s bad enough that you can’t stop itching, but it adds insult to injury when the doctor’s explanation involves terms such as "eosinophil," "immunologic" or "idiopathic." In fact, attempting to use the internet to translate some of these terms can lead an unsuspecting individual into a deeper maze of medical jargon with even more five-syllable words!

Our doctors certainly know all the five-syllable words, but we focus on making ourselves understood, so we reserve those fancy words for the times we’re speaking with medical professionals. Even if there comes a time when patients can use Google Translate or myLINGO in their doctors' office, we will continue to emphasize patient education because we realize there is a lot of confusion about allergies and how they can be treated.

Instead of treating you with "corticosteroids” or "bronchodilators,” we will treat you with medications that decrease inflammation and open up the airway.

Speaking of treatments, another common place to find more five-syllable words is in the package insert that comes with all medications. Patients with an inhaler often try to read the package insert for guidance on how to use their inhaler. This insert usually has barely legible microscopic fine print with several pages’ worth of instructions and directions. There is no substitution that can replace one-on-one, hands-on training with an inhaler. As board-certified specialists in adult and pediatric allergy, asthma and immunology, we will also sit down with you and explain how these medications are to be taken and how to operate any medication device, such as an inhaler. We are armed with the latest advances in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies and asthma, balanced with the common sense that comes from decades of experience.

No one nose allergies like we do.™

Note: Information contained in this article should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a board-certified allergist to address individual medical needs.

David B. Engler, MD, FACAAI, FAAAAI Dr. Engler is a board-certified allergist and immunologist who hails from Houston, Texas. He was recently voted Best Allergist/Immunologist in Houston by H Texas Magazine, an honor based on peer and reader voting, as well as a Super Doctor by Texas Monthly Magazine.

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