10 self-medication mistakes you could be making

10 self-medication mistakes you could be making

Healthcare is expensive, and many of us would rather take over-the-counter meds than visit a doctor when our benefits have run out or we aren’t on medical aid. But self-medicating can be dangerous. Here are some of the most common made when dosing ourselves …

Home medicating

  1. Doubling up on ingredients. Two medications may contain the same ingredient. Paracetamol, for example, is commonly found in flu meds and sinus decongestants, so if you’re battling a cold and suffering pain with it, make sure you avoid doubling up and exceeding a drug’s maximum dose.
  2. Tossing the package insert: dosage information sometimes appears on the package insert, but not on the actual bottle. Make sure you keep the dosage instructions with the pack.
  3. Taking expired meds. The moist environment of the medicine cabinet makes meds go off quicker. Have a regular date check, and dispose of old drugs (take them back to the chemist for safe disposal).
  4. Taking meds for too long. Some meds, for example nose sprays, can be habit forming. If a package insert says avoid taking for five consecutive days, it could be because prolonged use of the medication can cause rebound or withdrawal symptoms, leaving you worse off.
  5. Taking counteracting drugs. Some meds may work to dry up a runny nose, and another may thin the mucous to facilitate drainage. These are counterproductive and shouldn’t be taken together. Always check with the pharmacist, and take the one that matches your symptoms. Certain drugs can magnify the side-effects caused by another. This can have fatal consequences. Always be upfront about the medication you’re taking, and chat to your pharmacist about potential interactions.
  6. Guessing a child’s dosage. Many meds are not suitable for children under a certain age – another good reason to hang on to the package insert. You can’t simply half the adult dosage for your teen. Check with your pharmacist if you’re unsure.
  7. Mixing meds and alcohol. Painkillers and alcohol frequently worsen each other’s effects.
  8. Some drugs product similar effects to alcohol, which makes driving while drugged as dangerous as driving after drinking. If you feel drowsy or dizzy after medication, stay off the roads.
  9. Playing doctor. If your doctor prescribed something that works for you, it may not work for your friend or colleague.
  10. Halving pills. When halving the dosage, pills should only be broken along the scored line. Don’t halve any unscored pills. Certain pills, eg. time-release tablets, are not intended to be broken in half.
Joni van der Merwe

About Joni van der Merwe

Your Family’s Digital editor. Avid retweeter. When I’m not scrolling Instagram you’ll find me in my garden. Keen on DIY and I don’t believe there’s anything that can’t be fixed with some chalk paint.


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