7 Dangerous Self-Medication Habits To Avoid

I worked for a pharmaceutical company during early part of my career and did my share of sales, training, brand management and mismanagement. Soon I acquired the cult status amongst my friends and they would ask me for medicine for everything from their sore throat to the pain in the knees of their aunt.

7 Dangerous Self-Medication Habits To Avoid

I was very happy to recommend them medicines made by my employer in most cases and even of other companies when my company did not make it. All this changed when as part of a training program we were taken through ethics and responsibilities of an employee of a pharmaceutical company.

Though I did not evolve from Siddhartha to Buddha but I did stopped recommending medicines to people. What I am mentioning in this post further needs to be taken seriously though it is not coming from a Doctor. Also please note that I no longer work for pharmaceutical company so I have no vested interest now.

With the advent of internet almost anything one can research on the internet. We Indians were and are always very keen for self medications. But this is a very dangerous trend more so if you are trying to do the same with your kids. While my aim is not to make you worry unnecessarily, it is also important that one does not indulge in self medication for kids.

Let me dispel some myths about common things in self medication

1. A fever is a fever: No not correct, it could be malaria, dengue, viral, or simply a symptom of something else and giving a fever tablet for fever is not correct. If the fever is above 100 for a kid, please visit a doctor and don’t do self medication.

2. A cough is a cough: No not correct at all. It could be dry cough, it could be productive with sputum, it could be allergic, and it could be exercise induced. Please don’t give the cough syrup you have in home for it could be expired and for a totally different kind of cough and can lead to further complications. If the cough persists for more than 2 days you must consult a doctor.

3. Don’t break the tablet:Doctor said give him 250 mg of tablet I have 500 mg so I will just break it and give to kid”Please don’t do that, as a lot of higher dose tablets are slow release and will not be effective at all if broken or crushed. Also not just the dose but also the basic compound for medicines for kids could be different even if the brand name is same for kids and adults. So please don’t do the same unless you have checked with the doctor and she has said OK.

4. It is the same disease as last time: Please refer point no 1 and 2, though the symptoms may look same to you it could be a totally different ailment. Even if it is the same ailment, the doctor may want to give a different medicine to check what suits best to your kid. So please do not give the medicine that was given by doctor last time. Same applies for medicine given to one sibling. It need not be what is needed by the other even if they fall sick at same time.

5. Old Home remedies : A lot of old home remedies are not accepted by modern medicine and there is high probability your parents or grandparents may insist you to follow them e.g. Kajal in eyes, oil in ears etc. they are best avoided and use your doctor to say no to what is not accepted by modern medicine today. You may have unhappy in-laws or parents but you will have smiling kids.

6. Tonics and Vitamins: A lot of young parents are very bullish on giving tonics and vitamins to the kids, thinking what harm they can bring and they will soon have Usain Bolt in family. This is a big mistake as all vitamins and minerals given in more dose than needed will actually harm the baby and some of the damage done could be irreversible. If you are giving a healthy balanced diet to your baby/kid there is no need for any supplement unless specifically prescribed by a doctor.

7. Delaying in Vaccination: A lot of vaccinations today are available for various communicable diseases, but a lot of parents due to either being busy or just thinking that the kid is OK delay the vaccines. Their logic is why to go now and make the kid cry. This is not a good thing at all for all vaccines are best given at the appropriate age as defined by World Health Organization, a UN body. If you delay the same the child might get infected in the mean time as the child is susceptible to certain disease at a certain age. So please do not delay the vaccination of your baby and make sure you get her the shots as per the recommended chart that you would have received on the first visit to the doctor.

I hope I have not scared you as that is not the intention at all, but with information or should I say misinformation available almost everywhere it is important that we do not try to do self medication in kids and consult a doctor before things get serious.

Sasha and Prasad Np are proud parents of 2 girls whom they fondly call Princess (11 yrs in Feb 13) and Pinkette (4 yrs next month). He wears many hats after taking a break from being corner office critter for a long time. He is now entrepreneur, blogger, photographer, traveler and an investor in startups with unique concepts. He blogs at Desi Traveler, and can be reached at Facebook and Twitter.

  • hey superb… wish the elderly read this.. n my husband too 🙂

  • Badri

    I don’t accept with point 5 and 7 Home remedies are far more effective than the modern day science.
    And lot of vaccinations are just an eyewash they really don’t have any purpose,

    • Hi Badri… I am not against all home remedies, but the ones that are known to give no benefits e.g. Kajal in eyes, it can actually harm the baby.
      Also I am suggesting only the vaccinations that are approved by WHO and not everything that the hospital recommends. We are one of the few countries where Polio keeps coming back due to lack of immunization.
      Please see below

  • This is highly debatable.
    You being in Pharma Industry, are talking pro modern-medicine 😀 Understandable. But I know by experience that home remedies are effective especially for common cold and related fevers.

    I agree we shouldn’t self-medicate and I also believe than that prescription meds should not be sold over-the-counter.

  • Hi Sirisha… I clarified in first paragraph that I know longer work for Pharmaceutical company ( it was 15 years ago to make things more clear 🙂 :)). Also I clearly say that if the fever etc continues one should consult a doctor and not give any medicine on own and for cough I say if it is more than 2 days one should go to a doctor. This kind of balances the approach without panicking by young parents.
    The key is to know when you need to go to a doctor and not continue to try resolve things on own in such delicate matters.

  • I have worked in Pharmaceutical companies in sales and brand management for 10 years. I certainly agree to each and every word you have mentioned, Prasad. Self medication can be so fatal, I have experienced it with 2 close family friends! I had written a post on similar lines, sometime back…

  • desi Traveler

    Hi Shilpa…Just read your post, so sad to know about the deaths that could have been avoided by timely medical care. 🙁 🙁

  • I never self-medicate even myself, forget about my baby. I immediately go to the doctor. First of all, in my case, I can’t afford to remain sick for long because I am the primary care giver for my child. There is no one else to attend to him if I am unwell (except of course if hubby takes leave from office). Usually, I avoid antibiotics till the time it is possible.
    I have seen many parents and grandparents giving the same medicines to their children, which the doctor prescribed earlier, if they feel that the symptoms are the same. I have never been able to figure out how they decide to do so. I am very particular about what medicine I give to my son. I even tried homeopathy once but it took so long that I almost gave up.

    • desi Traveler

      I think you are right in not giving the antibiotics as a first line of defense, they become useless if used indiscriminately. I have no experience of Homeopathy except for enjoying the little white pills from my grandfather as sweets 🙂

  • I generally try the medicines I have in fridge for my daughter first .. I have a medicine box of common cold, lose motion, paracetamol, pain killer(for ear pain etcc) .. I will try this first and only then go to doctor. My daughter’s doctor encourages me to wait for couple of days before rushing to clinic… He always asks me to trust my instincts. This way I have been able to avoid every-week-clinic-visit. Its also better because that’s the way young kids grow their immunity. I have only given the medicines that my doctor has given, i haven’t tried any over-the-counter medicine for my kid.

  • desi Traveler

    Hi Divya.. .If the bottle of a medicine has been opened, even though kept in fridge please use it with caution. We have developed good relationship with the pediatrician we visit and will call her before giving any thing to the younger one.

  • Amrita Thavrani

    I agree to most of your points, though have reservation for point 5. Home remedies do work wonders, but needs patience. The only problem not all pediatricians are genuine and they always have a habit of prescribing medicine just because you have visited them. Home remedies comes to rescue then. But yes, we have to take the call when to rush and when to wait. How tricky parenting is ! 🙂

    • Hi Amrita… I think your comments second last line summarizes it well, and yes I agree it is tricky 🙂

  • A much more dangerous habit is using a prescription given once, whenever ‘similar’ symptoms appear and worse still is not completing full course and using only till symptoms disappear.
    I tell parents, you may do what you wish with your life but PLEASE don’t tackle kids’ health issues casually; never on advise of a non-medico. If you have serious reservations about any drug, have an open dialogue with your doctor and see who can convince the other. If not treating is a well informed decision, then at least you won’t say “but i did know” or “no one told me”