Self-medication: possibilities and limits

Self-medication has increased dramatically in Germany and will continue to increase. Studies confirm this trend: Germans are increasingly refraining from visiting doctors and at the same time increasingly treating themselves with over-the-counter medicines. More than every third German citizen (35%) claims to be less likely to go to the doctor due to the loss of the reimbursement of non-prescription drugs. Even long waiting times at the doctors and additional payments for medicines let many sufferers go first to the pharmacy. But self-medication also has its limits. These are achieved when health problems are more than just mild, temporary disturbances or the cause of the person affected can no longer be clearly estimated. In such a case, the cause can be more serious - then it is essential to always consult the doctor.

Possibilities of self-medication

  • A prerequisite for any self-medication is that you can recognize the present disorder and deal with it. Conversely, this means: All disorders that you do not know where they come from or where you are uncertain, must be examined by the doctor.
  • Before buying a generic drug that you do not know, it is advisable to seek advice from the doctor or pharmacist. Before taking a medicine, it is advisable to read the leaflet carefully and to follow the instructions for use.
  • If drugs are not dosed correctly or taken at the wrong time, it may affect their effectiveness.
  • Does the ingested drug help? Do the symptoms go back or are there other complaints? Observing the body and the complaints is an indispensable prerequisite for self-medication.

Limits of self-medication

  • Those who are not sure that their own diagnosis is correct, should always consult the doctor. If the symptoms persist for more than three to four days, the doctor must also be consulted.
  • Do not take any remainders from the medicine chest! You can also use eye drops or your sister's antibiotic yourself? Basically no: antibiotics do not belong in the medicine cabinet, because they firstly always should be used up and secondly, every infection at the doctor must be treated with the right antibiotic. Eye drops are only stable for 6 weeks and may no longer be used because of bacterial contamination.
  • Restraint in pregnant women, nursing women and children. Special precautions are required for pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants and toddlers. Therefore, these groups of people should go straight to the doctor.
  • Children need different medicines than adults. Children - especially toddlers and infants - have a different metabolism, their immune system is not yet mature and many enzymes and hormones are not as effective as in adults. The absorption of the drugs, the effect in the organism and the excretion also work differently. Therefore, medicines for children are not the same as for parents. Be sure to talk to a doctor or pharmacist first.
  • Natural medicine is always considered harmless. But in many cases this is not the case. One example is the plant-derived cardiac glycoside digitoxin, which can cause cardiac arrest in higher doses. Another example is herbal laxatives, which are less recommended today than their chemical counterparts.

Examples of limits in self-medication

  • Stomach problems such as heartburn are good to treat with gastric therapeutics. But if a more serious disease - for example, inflammation of the stomach and esophagus, stomach ulcers or stomach cancer - before, this may be obscured by a self-medication under certain circumstances. Therefore do not wait too long to clarify the symptoms!
  • Long-term painkillers increase the risk of medication-related headaches.
  • You will also receive sleeping pills without a doctor's prescription. Long-lasting sleep disorders over several weeks but belong to medical treatment, their cause has been clarified.
  • Antiallergic drugs that are no longer prescribed on prescription should be taken at all costs, otherwise the allergy could worsen. In the worst case threatens a change of level - namely allergic asthma.
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