10 Things You Should Never Do Before a Doctor Appointment
Don’t consume coffee before a blood pressure test
Your blood pressure will be likely be taken at a checkup, so avoid coffee right before your appointment: it could influence the results. “Using coffee or another caffeine such as energy drinks or colas within an hour of having your blood pressure checked can make the number artificially higher,” states James Dewar, MD, vice chairman of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). “The same goes for tobacco goods and over-the-counter decongestant medications.”
Don’t consume a high-fat meal before getting blood drawn
You should also jump the fettucini alfredo before a regular blood workup. “If you wouldn’t usually have a high-fat meal, then don’t do it, so your physician can get an exact picture of your health,” says Deepa Iyengar, MD, associate professor of family and community medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and an attending physician at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
Extraordinarily large meals could skew test results. In fact, you may need to dodge eating in general. “If your blood work will involve measurement of cholesterol or other fats, it is best to bypass any calories for eight to ten hours before the test is begun,” says Dr. Dewar. “Your blood sugar and certain fats in the blood named triglycerides can be raised for a bit after you eat.” And you may not have a choice: you’ll seemingly be told to fast before a usual blood workup, says Dr. Iyengar
Do drink lots of water before a physical
In general, it’s an excellent idea to hydrate before seeing the doc for a checkup. “Staying well hydrated at the time of a physical will obtain your pulse and blood pressure at their best,”
Dr. Dewar states. “If you are having blood work or urine examination done, being mildly dehydrated can create artificial abnormalities in the testing that can complicate the results.” You do want the doctor to create your whole lifestyle, but you should be drinking lots of water anyways.”
Do eat as you usually would before a checkup
You don’t need to modify your eating habits before an annual appointment, even if you want to look healthy. “Your providers would like you to be fair and upfront about your lifestyle and diet so they can get an accurate history of your health and give you the best possible care,” says Gregory John Galbreath, MD, a PIH Health physician in Whittier, CA.
After all, a few days of healthier eating seemingly won’t matter. “It takes a long time for a diet to alter cholesterol and blood sugar levels, so a dietary change of a few days or meals isn’t going to do enough,” Dr. Dewar says. Changes happen over the long term, so eat healthy as often as you can.
Don’t take cold medicine before a sick visit (if you can)
When you’re ill, your doctor may want to estimate your symptoms without the effects of any over-the-counter medications. “If it’s plausible, don’t take anything so your doctor can see any abnormal findings and evaluate your condition,” says Dr. Iyengar. “Some medications may raise blood pressure, and your physician would not identify if the medication or the illness could be the cause.”
If you’re truly hurting, it’s probably okay to go forward—your doctor wants you to feel healthier. Just be ready to explain your symptoms. And unmistakably tell the doctor what you’ve taken. “If you are using medications to help with an acute illness, it’s essential to let the doctor know if they are helping or causing side effects,” Dr. Dewar says. “This can help the doctor to decide on the next steps in treatment.”
Don’t get a mani-pedi before the dermatologist
Dermatologists will look at your whole body, including your nails, so keep them polish-free. “Avoid wearing nail polish or acrylic nails,” states Sarina Elmariah, MD, Ph.D., a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Indicated clues in your nails can symbolize more significant health problems, like anemia, diabetes, and even heart ailments. Plus, bare nails make it clear to spot fungus.
Additionally, skip the cover-up and eye shadow, so your doctor can surely spot facial skin problems. “Avoid wearing makeup or be prepared to remove it if necessary,” she says. But it is okay to wear sunscreen or lotions, she states.
Don’t consume alcohol before a cholesterol test
Avoid anything that changes your triglycerides (one of the four elements measured in a cholesterol profile), since that could lead to needlessly disturbing results. “The precaution to abstain 24 hours before a cholesterol test is based on the possible increase in triglycerides that could result soon after consuming alcohol,” says Joon Sup Lee, MD, chief of cardiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and co-director of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.
You should also bypass sweets, high-fat foods, and generally overeating before the examination. “All of these in large quantities can affect the triglycerides in the short term,” Dr. Lee says. “Since we want the outcome of the cholesterol exam to reflect what your body is doing in the long term, it is most beneficial to avoid these short-term fluctuations.”
Interestingly, Dr. Lee says usually consuming one or two alcoholic drinks per day can have a mild beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. So go ahead and imbibe tolerable when you’re not about to take the test.
Don’t consume caffeine before some stress tests
A stress test works your heart (by training on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike) to see how it responds and to ensure that it’s healthy. But if you have a stress test that involves pharmacological agents, don’t consume caffeine beforehand. “Caffeine neutralizes the medicine—adenosine or oregadenosine—used to simulate stress in the ‘chemical’ stress test,” answers Dr. Lee.
Don’t get too thirsty before a urine test
If you need to go for a urine examination, don’t get dehydrated before your appointment. If you exercise, that indicates you need to drink plenty of water afterward. “Avoid episodes of extreme dehydration that can significantly change a urinalysis,” Benjamin Davies, MD, chief of urology at the UPMC Shadyside/Hillman Cancer Center.
“And avoid exercise that is not in your normal daily routine.” If you exercise frequently, you probably know how your body will respond and how to take care of it afterward. If you’re not used to it, you’re more prone to get dehydrated.
Don’t cancel your gyno if you have your period
Although you might be grossed out by your period, your doctor’s seen worse. “I would usually joke with a patient who comes in and says, ‘Oh, I just got my period this forenoon, I’m so nervous,’ and it will be like right after I’ve done a cesarean section or delivery—like I was never sawing blood before!” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an OBGYN at Yale-New Haven Hospital and founder of the women’s health website MadameOvary.com.
But any tests you have with your period should be Ok. “The liquid Pap smear examinations that are the standard now can be done too when a woman is menstruating, so there’s no need to reschedule,” says Elizabeth Roth, MD, an ob-gyn at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Some women feel more satisfied rescheduling when they have their period, but medically there is no requirement to do this.”
The only exception? If you’re going in for special concern, like unusual discharge or a lesion, your period might cloud the exam. “But even that is not an ideal as we can still do vaginal cultures,” Dr. Roth answers.
Don’t use deodorant before a mammogram
As if mammograms weren’t nerve-wracking enough, you can’t still protect against sweating! “Mammography teaches women to skip deodorant/antiperspirant or powders on the day of the mammogram,” Dr. Roth states.
“The reason is that numerous deodorants and powders contain aluminum, which on mammography seems similar to breast calcifications and could be read as a false positive.” You might be concerned about B.O., but the techs are used to it. Just shower before, and it won’t be that bad. Plus, it’s better than receiving incorrect lousy news later!
Don’t eat red food before a colonoscopy
Red or purple food can color your colon. Even the ice pops you’re advised to have while eating the day before the test could be a problem. “We suggest that these are not purple or red in color because they will disguise the lining of the colon and could then influence the outcome of the study,” says Randall Brand, MD, a gastroenterologist at UPMC. Interestingly, iron supplements can have the same outcome.
And they can have some additional not-so-pleasant consequences. “Iron can also stain the walls of the colon, again having an effect on a successful study,” Dr. Brand states. “Also, iron, for many people, can be constipating and may make it hard for the pre-colonoscopy laxatives to thoroughly clean out the colon for a successful study.” You should limit iron intake for a week before your colonoscopy. Other things that can be difficult to clean out are high-fiber foods like raw fruits and vegetables, corn, and beans. Dr. Brand says to bypass them for three days before the procedure.
Do go ahead and have sex before the gyno or urologist
Don’t bother: doctors say it’s ok to do the deed before your visit, even though you may believe that having sex before a visit to the gynecologist (for a woman) or the urologist (for a man) is a no-no. “Your doctor is not going to yell at you for having sex—it’s completely fine,” Dr. Minkin says.
But again, if you’re going to be bothered about it, skip the sex or reschedule. “It will not change your physical exam either way neither will affect the Pap smear,” Dr. Roth says. For men, you might be worried that it will influence any tests you have on your urine, testicles, or prostate, but Dr. Davies states that’s not the case. “Normal sexual activity is fine,” he acknowledges. “There are no significant irregularities associated with sexual relations.”
Do write down your questions beforehand
No matter what sort of appointment you have, you may be worried. After all, we can feel helpless and embarrassed during doctors exams. That’s why you should write down the points you want to talk about before you go (or even write a note on your phone). That way, you’re less likely to forget or waste your nerve.
“It’s effective if you come in with your list of questions, so you’re not like, ‘Oh, I meant to ask this, I meant to ask that, but I was too nervous,’” Dr. Minkin says. “Don’t be afraid to write down, ‘vaginal dryness is a problem’ if it is, and you can speak about it.” Other than that, the only other thing you should probably do is a shower!
- James Dewar, MD, vice chairman of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), Pittsburgh, PA.
- Deepa Iyengar, MD, associate professor of family and community medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and an attending physician at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Houston, TX.
- Joon Sup Lee, MD, chief of cardiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA.
- Randall Brand, MD, a gastroenterologist at UPMC, Pittsburgh, PA.
- Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an OBGYN at Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, CT.
- Elizabeth Roth, MD, an ob-gyn at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.
- Benjamin Davies, MD, chief of urology at the UPMC Shadyside/Hillman Cancer Center, Pittsburgh, PA.
- Gregory John Galbreath, MD, a PIH Health physician, Whittier, CA.
- Sarina Elmariah, MD, PhD, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.