Coronavirus in Mumbai: Doctors warn against self-medication, say monsoon ailments have symptoms similar to COVID-19

Mumbai: Self-medication is increasingly proving to be an undesirable and a possibly dangerous side effect of the ongoing pandemic. This practice has risen by almost 20-25 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. They are also urging the public not to believe in 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 25-30 per cent in the last one month. 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. 

Advising people against self-medication, hoarding of N-95 masks and consuming unverified news, health experts said people should instead strictly practise social distancing and hand hygiene to stay safe. “There are a lot of people I know who have stocked up on hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, thinking it will protect them from the virus. Never take these drugs without a doctor’s prescription. Hydroxychloroquine is prescribed only for patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 and for the healthcare workers attending to them,” said Dr Ramesh Bharmal, dean, Sion Hospital.

“Even in the case of Covid-19 patients, this drug should be administered only after ensuring they have no cardiac issues, as it can lead to blockage in the heart,” he warned.

Dr Vikrant Shah, consulting physician, intensivist, and infectious diseases specialist at the Zen Multispeciality Hospital, Chembur, said there has been a rise in monsoon-related illnesses such as dengue and malaria, so it is going to be challenging for doctors to tell apart monsoon-related illnesses from the current pandemic.

“We see that there are many people who are reluctant to approach a doctor even if they notice symptoms, afraid it could be coronavirus. But fever is a sign not just in Covid-19 but the majority of monsoon ailments, so people should not neglect these symptoms and thereby, delay treatment,” he said.

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