Home Medicines Self-medication: possibilities and limits

Self-medication: possibilities and limits

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 463 views

Sore throat, slight headache, cough – you can treat some everyday complaints yourself without first asking a doctor for advice (self-medication). In addition to the proven home remedies, there is an over-the-counter drug available in pharmacies for almost every symptom. When it comes to self-medication, however, there are a few rules to follow.

From coughing to insomnia

The Germans most often resort to cough and cold remedies for self-treatment. Over-the-counter painkillers and medicines for digestive problems are also often bought in pharmacies.

Self-medication – common areas of application:

  • cough and cold
  • Pains
  • Stomach and digestive problems
  • skin problems and wounds
  • Nutritional supplements (vitamins, minerals , etc.)
  • Heart, circulatory and vein problems
  • Rheumatic and muscular pains
  • Mental problems and sleep disorders

Self Medication – The Rules

  • Prescription drugs are taboo for self-medication! Don’t take any prescription medication you have at home, even if your doctor previously prescribed it for a similar condition.
  • Before you reach into the medicine cabinet, you should ask yourself the following questions: Do I know what kind of ailments I have? Do I know the cause of these complaints? You can only take the right remedy if you know exactly what you are missing. Ask the pharmacy for advice if you are unsure.
  • Over-the-counter medicines are not necessarily harmless. Over-the-counter medicines also have side effects and interactions. Read the package leaflet carefully and note the warnings and contraindications. Otherwise the remedy may do more harm than good.
  • Caution is also required with herbal medicines (phytotherapeutics). Plant-based does not automatically mean free of side effects and risks. For example, St. John’s wort increases the skin ‘s sensitivity to light , and an overdose of eucalyptus can cause nausea.
  • The correct dosage is also important when it comes to self-medication. Never take more of any drug than recommended or exceed the allotted time.

When to the doctor?

Self-medication has limits. You should always have some alarm signs of the body clarified by the doctor – regardless of whether there are over-the-counter remedies or not. Examples are sudden eye pain with impaired vision, earache with fever , sudden severe pain or shortness of breath.

Don’t tinker with symptoms on your own that you’ve never had before. Even if an illness occurs again and again at short intervals, it is advisable to see a doctor.
If the symptoms do not improve within two to three days, if they get worse or if new symptoms appear, you should also consult a doctor.

No self-medication during pregnancy and lactation! Pregnant and nursing mothers should not take any medication without consulting their doctor.

Great caution is also required with children. Never give your child medicines that the doctor or pharmacist have recommended for you. What helps adults can sometimes harm children. Discuss with the pediatrician in advance how you can react to signs of illness in your offspring in an emergency.

General warnings

  • In addition to the actual active ingredient, pharmaceuticals almost always contain a whole range of additives and auxiliary substances. Allergy sufferers and people with intolerance to certain substances (e.g. lactose) should therefore study the composition of the drug carefully.
  • Avoid inhaled medicines if you have a chronic respiratory disease (such as asthma ). Inhalants and essential oils for application to the skin are problematic.
  • Infants and young children should not be given inhalants or rubs containing camphor or menthol. These substances can cause spasms of the glottis, larynx and airways, leading to life-threatening shortness of breath.
  • People with liver diseases, epileptics and alcoholics should not take any medicines containing alcohol, especially not as part of self-medication.

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