Self Medication For Common Ailments: Dos and Don’ts

medicines for common ailments

Do you have a headache? Pop a painkiller.

Do you suffer from acidity? Try an antacid.

Are you down with a fever? Take an antipyretic.

Are you coughing all night? Have an antibiotic.

A headache, fever, cough, cold, acidity — these are some of the common ailments which prompt most individuals to self-medicate. And so we use medications such as antibiotics, analgesics, cough syrups and other over the counter (OTC) medicines. But, what many are unaware of is the fact that self-medication can land you in trouble especially when you take prescription medicines without consulting a doctor and sometimes even OTC medicines.

Here are few do’s and don’ts for self-medication when it comes to common ailments such as fever, cough, cold, acidity, headache, and constipation.

Paracetamol for fever

Paracetamol is one of the common over the counter medicines used to treat fever. However, in certain cases, this medicine can cause allergies. The dosage of this medicine varies from person to person depending upon the weight. So a dose recommended for an adult is not suitable for a child and vice versa.

The overdose of this medicine can lead to hepatotoxicity (liver damage). So if you are taking any OTC medicine that contains paracetamol and have visited your doctor, then do inform your doctor about the same. This is because, if your doctor prescribes a combination medicine that contains paracetamol, then it can lead to the drug overdose. Read more about different types of painkillers.

Antibiotics for a cough and cold

Antibiotics, used to treat bacterial infections, should ONLY be taken on prescription. Moreover, if you treat a cough or cold, which is caused by a viral infection, then taking antibiotic might not provide you with any respite. So to know if you have a viral infection or bacterial infection, you need to visit a doctor.

Do not share your antibiotics with any of your family members or friends. Also, always discard leftover antibiotics, if any, and don’t preserve them for future use. Always complete the course of your medication as prescribed without fail. Do not take antibiotics with milk as it may hinder the absorption of the active compounds of the antibiotic. Do not skip antibiotics or discontinue them without asking your doctor. Here’s more on Antibiotics: When You Need Them And When You Don’t.

Laxatives for constipation

Laxatives are medicines which soften the stools and improve the bowel movement, thereby relieving constipation. Some laxatives can interfere with the absorption of certain antibiotics and cardiac medications. So be cautious if you are on these medications and are planning to take laxatives. They are a strict no-no if you are suffering from kidney disease or heart disease.

The use of laxatives in pregnant and breastfeeding women should only be considered after consulting a doctor. Laxatives do not aid in weight loss, so stop taking these medicines to lose weight. It is important to know which type of laxatives you are taking. Generally, fiber-based laxatives are considered safe as compared to others. Do not take laxatives daily as it can lead to dependence and worsen the condition.

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Antacids for acidity

These drugs neutralize the stomach acid and help relieve heartburn, acidity, and indigestion. Antacids should be taken with food or after meals for effective results. The dose of this medicine for adults and children is different, so check with your doctor for the right dosage. Moreover, some antacids are not recommended for children. Certain antacids contain sodium so if you are suffering from high blood pressure, these antacids might not be a right choice.

Pregnant women and breastfeeding women should consult a doctor before taking antacids. Also, if you are suffering from liver disease, kidney disease, or heart disease, it is best to ask your doctor as certain antacids may not be safe for you.

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

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