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Tips on how to prepare for a DOT physical

By John McElligott, MD

Do you feel as though you have some issues that could put you in the red flag range during your next DOT exam? I am here to coach you through it.

There are some do’s and don’ts that you need to put in your action plan. This is especially important when seeing a company doctor or a doctor whom you don’t know and more importantly who does not know you.

First, lay off energy drinks or over-the-counter cold medication for 24 hours before the exam. These products can raise the blood pressure 20 points on each end. For example, a normal blood pressure of 120/80 can become a pressure of 140/100, or a 140/90 will rise to 160/110, which will turn a non-hypertensive driver into a permanently restricted one or, in the latter case, disqualified. 

Get a good night’s sleep and get up early so you are not rushed.

Take your medicine as soon as you wake up in the morning. This is especially important if you are on blood pressure medicine or diabetes medication. You should also bring all medications in their original bottles to the DOT exam to show to the doctor.

Hygiene is very important. If you or your breath smells like fertilizer, this is a big no-no. So be Mr. /Ms. Clean for the exam.

Don’t eat a big meal before the physical, especially if you are diabetic. This triggers a spilling of sugar in your urine. That leads to a blood sugar test and possibly getting an A1C test by your family doctor; disqualification pending treatment; or a restricted card.

Take any current compliance letters for special illness or medications from your doctor. You should also have copies of your most recent lab tests. Keep a medical log. This impresses doctors the most.

Have a CPAP machine? Bring it and your compliance letter to the exam. Remember CPAP machines are a prescription just the same as a medication. Some doctors can read your CPAP data card, although not many do.

If you have to catch a bus to a new hire physical, be sure to be early. You don’t want the stress of missing the bus on top of everything else. Otherwise, be sure to arrive at your appointment in plenty of time. You don’t want to be in a big rush or tired when you’re doing vision and hearing tests.

Once you are at the clinic – and this one is very high on my list – treat the staff with courtesy. If you treat the technician or nurse badly, the doctor will know and you will not be given the benefit of the doubt.

Remember, most restricted DOT medical disqualifications are the decision of the doctor. This means the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allows the doctor a lot of discretion in determining whether you get a card or not.

So be nice. I kick at least two to three drivers out of my clinic each year for disrespecting my staff.

Are you familiar with some rules of anger and attitude management from Michael Burns of Nemo Entertainment? You’ll hear nuggets of wisdom from Michael from time to time on Sirius XM Road Dog Channel 106 along with some from yours truly.

Here’s how attitude fits into a DOT physical: Don’t go into a medical office and expect to be seen right away. A long wait at the doc’s office is par for the course. And if a drug screen is needed, you may be a little uncomfortable, even mad.

As Michael would say, “chill” and think about the most fun or pleasant thing that has ever occurred in your life.

Being calm and polite will go a long way to ensuring a more pleasant DOT physical experience. LL


John McElligott is an MD and Fellow the American College of Physicians. Jeff Heinrich, who serves as the column’s medical editor, has a Doctor of Education degree and PA-C, which means Physician Assistant Certified.

This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Please remember everyone’s health situation is different. If you have questions regarding medical issues, consult your personal physician.

Aug/Sept Digital Edition