Amid the surge of COVID-19 cases across the city following which self-testing and home isolation have increased which has led to rising in self-medication proving to be an undesirable and a possibly dangerous side effect of the ongoing pandemic. This practice has risen by almost 60-70 per cent in Mumbai, with a corresponding increase in the sale of over-the-counter medications.
Health experts have urged people to come forward and visit doctors immediately for timely treatment, instead of trying to treat themselves to avoid any health complications which can alter the course of the disease. They are also urging the public to avoid treating at home without consulting the general physicians or doctors as there are many bogus claims and misinformation about the disease going viral on social media.
Officials from the civic health department said there has been a spurt of fever-like illnesses across the city, but people are preferring to self-medicate, instead of going to the hospital or consulting a doctor. “As per data, self-medication in the city has increased by 60 per cent in the last two weeks. But people should understand, many symptoms can be misleading and might actually need medical attention, so, instead of being scared, they should visit a nearby clinic or doctor immediately,” an official said. However, people are reluctant to do so, when they have a fever, or a cold or sore throat, as they mistake these for symptoms of coronavirus.
Dr Abdul Samad Ansari, Director, Critical Care Services, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital said they are witnessing a rise in self-medication during the current wave of the pandemic due to mild severity of symptoms and easy access to over the counter Rapid Antibody Testing kits. It's important to understand that irrespective of the RAT result status if any individual is experiencing symptoms, they should follow up with a physician to understand the necessary line of treatment. “In no condition, the patients should depend on the test results and avoid professional clinical guidance or try home remedies. Though the severity of the infection is mild at present, an individual may need active care depending on their co-morbidities or change in health parameters,” he said.
A senior health official said post-viral syndromes have been reported in the past for a variety of viruses such as the SARS virus, MERS, Dengue and others. Given the number of people worldwide who have been infected with the virus, a syndrome that is prevalent even in a minuscule proportion of individuals infected is likely to result in large numbers. “Apart from the residual lung damage that could be a consequence of a COVID pneumonitis, leading to shortness of breath and chronic cough, post-COVID-19 complications range from neuropsychiatric symptoms such as extreme fatigue, memory loss, loss of concentration, insomnia to cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks, strokes and gastrointestinal disturbances. We are likely to see more and more individuals report these, and research needs to be carried out toward helping such individuals cope better,” he said.
Dr Radhika Banka, Consultant Pulmonologist at P.D. Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mahim, Mumbai said self-tests or rapid antigen tests are rampantly being conducted at home. Partly this is due to the convenience of testing, rapid results and avoidance of BMC regulations.
Omicron is trending to present with mild symptoms and antigen tests may be justified in the young healthy vaccinated population where the risk of hospitalisation is minimal. However, RT-PCR should be the standard of test in the elderly, comorbid populations where there is a higher risk of hospital admission and monitoring is needed.