With the winter approaching, self-medication becomes a major concern for doctors. Often it is the friendly chemist, friend or patient themselves who suggest self-medicating based on the common symptoms. Needless to say it is completely inappropriate to take medications without a proper medical consultation.
For one, most of the winter illness are mild illness, caused by viruses and are self-limiting. The treatment required would often be just symptomatic care, but often antibiotics are dispensed for the same and this promotes the development of resistant organism.
Secondly, what looks like a mild illness would be actually a serious problem, requiring appropriate diagnosis, tests and treatment. If precious time is wasted in self-medicating, the consequences are dire, often leading to hospital and intensive care admission or in some cases, threat to life.
The more common symptoms like cough and cold, may actually be symptoms of pneumonia, if not treated appropriately, the consequences are serious.
It is important that the patients understand, that chemists are not allowed to dispense medications like antibiotics, pain relief medications, anxiolytics etc. without a doctor’s prescription.
The reason being that chemists may have an understanding of the drug and its actions, but lack the clinical skills, lack understanding of effects of a particular drug on physiological variables and certainly are not able to correlate with different system and drug interactions. The paucity of this knowledge may be deleterious to patient, causing more harm than good.
Chemists mostly tend to dispense paracetamol with an antihistamine combination, followed by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics. Sometimes, these are not required as they are unaware of the person’s clinical history and findings.
Doctors do not advise taking an aspirin as home intervention before reaching a hospital for treatment in regards to cough, cold, fever or headaches. Taking a mild paracetamol prior to doctor consultation or a remedial steam inhalation is preferable.
The author is the Director of the Intensive Care at Fortis Hospital, Mulund