Non-prescription medicines can be helpful for occasional, short-term use, but for patients turning regularly to self-care medication for relief of problematic symptoms, there could be cause for concern.
“Self-care medication is only intended for minor, temporary ailments that don’t usually require a doctor’s consultation,” said pharmacist Timothy Ngobeni of Medipost Pharmacy. “Patients mustn’t take medication for longer than is recommended, usually a maximum of 10 days, without seeing a doctor. The medicine could mask symptoms that require diagnosis and treatment. This is particularly important in the case of recurring urinary tract infections, fungal infections, and persistent pains.”
PAIN THAT JUST WON’T QUIT
“Recurring or chronic pain can take various forms, including headaches or joint pain. Pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen are commonly used to manage mild to moderate pain, however, pain can be a symptom of many deeper health problems.
“It is therefore essential to seek medical advice if the pain persists or worsens, as there could be an underlying health issue that requires proper diagnosis and management.”
When patients should see their doctor:
• The pain continues or gets worse, even with pain relief medication
• Experiencing other symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, or weakness
• Daily functioning is difficult due to pain
• Pain doesn’t improve with rest or self-care remedies
“A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common bacterial infection of the urinary system, including the bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra,” Ngobeni said.
“Often the pain and discomfort caused by UTIs can be relieved with non-prescription medications like flavoxate but if the symptoms persist or patients notice any of the following signs, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional.”
• Severe or persistent pain while urinating
• Blood in the urine
• Fever or chills
• UTI symptoms start again shortly after completing a course of antibiotics
• Pain in side or back, which could be a sign of kidney infection
• Experiencing persistent exhaustion or a lack of energy that doesn't respond to self-care remedies
Itchy or peeling skin are symptoms associated with common fungal infections that can affect the skin, nails, and mucous membranes. Common types include athlete's foot, jock itch, and ringworm.
“Although self-care antifungal medications such as clotrimazole and terbinafine are often used to treat these infections, it is important patients consult a healthcare professional if symptoms persist. Recurrent fungal infections might indicate an underlying condition, possibly an immune system disorder or diabetes, requiring specific treatment,” Ngobeni said.
Patients should make an appointment with their doctor or clinic if they notice:
• It’s getting worse or not improving despite using non-prescription antifungal medications
• The infection spreads to other body parts
• A fever or flu-like symptoms
• Pus or fluid oozing from the area
• Severe itching or pain that gets in the way of daily activities
• The fungal infection comes back soon after using antifungal medication