Beware of self-medication, 'word-of-mouth docs': Experts

Bengaluru: Everyone out there is eager to offer suggestion regarding health care. This is more prevalent for mild health issues such as complaints of any pain, stomach ache, acidity, and high fever. These people are nowadays also referred to as ‘word of mouth doctors’, they suggest a drug or to do things based on their personal experience or after going through Google search.

Health experts warn that consumption of medicine based on word of mouth and without doctors' consultation can adversely affect the health and sometimes lead to disastrous consequences. They explain that every individual has a different requirement, hence one size does not fit all.

Take the case of Manasa (name changed), an eight-year old child. She was suffering from fever and her parents gave her medicines without consulting a doctor. She was administered a high dosage and the drug was a combination of paracetamol and nimesulide; the latter is banned in India.

Manasa ended up with a liver failure, and this led to multi-organ failure, followed by hepatitis and death. “Currently, there are certain population taking medicines or using medical devices especially designed and labelled for use in the treatment of common health problems without the authority or prescription of a physician. This is the most rapidly growing areas of concern for medical professionals, government and the general public. Self-medication or consuming medicine by word of mouth may initially result in a reduction of distress, but in the long-run it may cause serious problems,” said Dr Shylaja Shyamsunder, Consultant, Internal Medicine, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital.

She also said that irrational use of medicines may lead to an inappropriate, incorrect, missed diagnosis. “Delay in the right treatment may further increase the morbidity rate,” she added.

Some of the symptoms may rebound as well, resulting in stronger desires to take more drugs causing an addiction, doctors said. While on the other side, in order to cut down the cost of medical expenses, people are also seeking the help of ‘Google doctor’ which in turn adds to confusion.

Dr Mayuri Yeole, Consultant Pediatrician, Apollo Hospitals Seshadripuram, said that self-medication is highly harmful. “Especially for children, the dosage varies according to weight, and not just age. There are some drugs which may be safe for adults, but when given to kids, it may be harmful because their organs are in a developing stage, and they are getting adapted to environmental scenarios. Even the slightest dose, if miscalculated, can land the child into serious conditions,” she said. Experts say that people fail to realise the harmful effects of such combinations — including cough syrups, medications for common conditions like headache, cold etc.

“Every time we fall sick, we just go to the pharmacy and ask for a medicine for the concerned condition. But, it is always advisable to consult a doctor, and get the appropriate dosage, than arbitrarily taking any drug. This holds true not just in pediatric cases, but even women who are pregnant - if they take any drug without the doctor's prescription, it can hamper their child-bearing time, causing genetic or physical abnormalities which the expected others take at random,” they said.

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