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!

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31 thoughts on “When Self-Help is No Help…

  1. Totally agree with that , nothing wrong with precaution, and I ma sure there are more GOOD doctors then the bad ones.

    as you say rather than self help , he knows more , I know when 2 years back I got the shock of my life, I did not bother too as I was healthy , gymming and what not , but an accident made me go to hospital and there they did a blood pressure test and then a blood test and I was shocked to find what i found.

    SO yeah its always good to have ur self checked everynow and then

    Bikram’s

    • Of course, good docs outnumber the bad ones, but the fact is that he knows better than us about the diseases and medicines, so consulting him is mandatory!!
      I can so very relate to your experience… the annual medical check up spring up quite a few surprises sometimes!

  2. The dreadful disease widely prevalent even among the educated and elite class is the self-medication. The most damaging part is elders in a household advise young ones to take some medicine which was prescribed by a doctor to someone else and at some other time.

  3. Such a frustrating news it must have been.

    I think listening to our body if a symptom doesn’t subside is what we can all do. I myself do a lot of home remedies but am cautious enough to run to a doctor when a symptom looks stubborn. Also, we should all be aware of our body and physiology a little bit. And should know about our organs and diseases so we know that pain in the arm can also be because of heart blockage.

    • Home remedies are the best for many ailments… they are any day better than popping in antibiotics and pain killers on your own!
      You are right, knowing the anatomy and physiology of our body is important. The example you have shared is valid and also certain medicines for blood pressure (ACE Inhibitors) cause cough, which is very different from the regular cough!

  4. In fact the control of the across the counter medication in the West is sensible.
    Sometimes a symptom or illness may be dealt by a good physician by prescribing a placebo. And he seeks antibiotics only in extreme necessity.There are folks who pop in antibiotics like poppins. And I know a woman who took brufoen for headaches and slight muscular pain finally to damage her kidneys that when I last saw her was on daily dialysis.

    At the same time the real malady may stay not encountered when we indulge in self medication. The examples you mentioned are sadly relevant.

    • Well said… just because a medicine is available over the counter, that doesn’t meant that it cannot be dangerous or fatal. Some medicines can cause serious complications if you have a pre-exiting disease like high blood pressure or diabetes…
      OMG, that’s so very bad… a simple painkiller for years and now a daily dialysis!! 😐

  5. Most doctors say that if within three days fever and infection does not start abating then one must visit the doctor. Antibiotics should not be doled out easily especially for viral infections. One must be careful of doctors who are quick to hand out medicines. Anything beyond a week and blood tests are required. This is something which must be taken seriously. And yes, we all are self medicaters.

    • What you say is so very right, Rachna! Antibiotics are for bacterial infections. Antibiotics can do nothing against a virus, giving them when not needed only increases bacterial resistance and can even be harmful!
      Yes, when a 3-5 days therapy is ineffective, a lab test to explore more is necessary!

  6. Being a doctor I will say Amir should not apologize.IMA need to apologize to public.I think private consulants such as physician, surgeons, gynaecologist are really sucking money from helpless patients.There is no limit for their consulting charges.For IVF these criminals are looting childess couples.They are charging in lacs,without guarantee.All these are happening because of our corrupt government policy.There is no good facilities in government hopsitals like other countries.That’s why these private practioners are looting people.India’s government hospitals are in worst conditions, sometime we feel these are for animals not for human.I do not blame all doctors but some are there.If you are really hungry for money then accept other profession,,should not play with life of patient,Run practise with grace & dignity.

    • Tina so happy to hear your take on this. There are so many good doctors but those who are ruthless and greedy are also in a good number. Unless the doctors themselves want to weed these black sheep out, they will continue to give a bad name to this noble profession.

  7. It is really sad to hear about the two unfortunate incidents that you mentioned. True Shilpa, we should not take ailment lightly and see a doctor immediately…at least if some thing serious is diagnosed we can try to cure it in the initial stages.

  8. Very sorry to hear about your father’s friend’s SIL and your relative, Shilpa.

    I agree every bit of what you said. We do tend to take our health for granted. I have been guilty of doing that myself you know. And then I get so paranoid when Namnam gets the slightest fever! :).

    “Life is too precious to be wasted on trial and errors because the errors could be very fatal here!” You’re absolutely right

    • Thanks Deeps. The immediate family suffers the most and that is all the more distressing!
      Nah, we must be conscious and alert about any warning signs our body tries to give…

  9. Yes Shilpa,each family must have a “Family Doctor” who can be consulted on phone.
    And also, each one must have the contact number of a Doctor nearest to one’s home/office.
    Under no circumstances,must one neglect any sign of illness.
    Very informative/positive post.Thank you

  10. very true!! when I advise friends to visit doc in case of fever, mostly they are like kya choti choti baat pe doctor ke pass jaana. In fact in India there are beliefs like dysentry is good..it cleans stomach..cold and cough is good..sharir ka sab mail (dirt) bahar aa raha hai! and educated people have told me these reasons!

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