When Self-Help is No Help…

Last week, a phone call from my father’s friend, shattered all of us in the family.

He called up to inform us that his 36 year old son-in-law is no more.

Since the last 2-3 months, his son-in-law had fever and body ache, and like most of us, he took it lightly and suppressed the fever and ache with self medication or at the most going to the local GP, a couple of times. When his condition deteriorated, he was admitted in an hospital and after all the lab tests, he was found to be suffering from an advanced stage of Bone Tuberculosis. By the time the treatment started, it was too late!!

He is survived by his wife and 3 young kids!

And last year, a cousin’s husband suffered from fever and general malaise. He ignored it for a while and then later took the usual pain killers etc. A few days later, he suddenly collapsed. In the hospital, the doctors diagnosed it to be Falciparum Malaria. After a few days in the ICU, he succumbed to his illness. He was just 30 and had a 2 year old daughter!

Both the incidents made me realise, as to how so very casual we are towards our health. Why do we find quick solutions with self medication rather than going to a doctor on time.

A headache and in goes a Saridon or a Disprin. Somebody’s coughing and we open the medicine chest and hand over a cough syrup and sometimes even an antibiotic!! Acidity?? We go to  a chemist and buy a Rantac or a Omez. And, of course, we all are experts in taking care of fever!

While, the self medication that we practice may help in alleviating the symptoms temporarily, it might have severe and dangerous repercussions in the long run! Now as a case in point, both the gentlemen had fever, but a regular Ibuprofen or a Paracetamol was not what they needed. They needed medicines which were specific for their illness.

Similarly, for a cough, any regular cough syrup will not help. If it’s a dry cough, it could be due to some allergy, or cold or flu or bronchitis. A wet productive cough could be due to pneumonia or bronchitis or flu. Likewise, the treatment for wet non-productive cough would be different than the one for a painful cough.

I know, we all have sufficient knowledge and experience with doctors and medicines and we now know that a standard prescription of a doctor for an infection is an antibiotic with a pain killer. But, do we know that different infections in different age groups need different antibiotics and also the dosage (250 mg vis-a-vis 500 mg or 750 mg of an antibiotic : once a day or twice a day) and the duration of the therapy (3 days or 5-7 days) depends upon the acuteness or the severity of the infection??

Leaving an antibiotic course mid-way could lead to resistance. In other words, the same antibiotic will not be effective in taking care of the infection next time or may be higher doses would be required.

I remember, a friend was suggested (by another friend) to use hot water fomentation for an injury. It worsened her pain. A visit to the doctor suggested cold water fomentation!

Another thought that comes to my mind is how long should one wait to see a doctor?? Immediately or a couple of days or even more??

I know, Aamir’s Satyamev Jayate programme is still fresh in our minds and we might be sceptical about our medical systems. But still, we must visit a doctor on time and follow the prescribed therapy rather than practicing self medication!

Life is too precious to be wasted on trial and errors because the errors could be very fatal here!