Your Tahoe Health: Nine ways to avoid self-care mistakes
March 5, 2017
Have a fever? Feel a sniffle? You don't want to call your doctor over every little thing. However, you want to be confident you're making wise health care choices. Here are some steps you can take to avoid some common self-care mistakes.
1. Watch the dose
Don't take more medication than the label recommends. Some people think if one dose of medication is good for them, then two must be better. The dosage on the package is there to protect you. Some over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) can cause stomach bleeding or ulcers. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can damage your liver. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can cause extreme drowsiness or even seizures.
2. Treat the cause
Don't treat symptoms without treating the cause. One danger of self-treating with over the counter (OTC) medicines is you may confuse symptom relief with a cure. You may start to feel better, but the health problem may continue or worsen. Ask the pharmacist or your doctor for their recommendation.
3. Call your doctor
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Don't attempt to treat too long before calling your doctor or primary care provider. A doctor visit can save you money if it keeps a small problem from becoming a big one. For example, without antibiotics right away, a bladder infection can turn into a kidney infection which requires stronger, more expensive antibiotics or even admission to the hospital.
4. Don't borrow medicines
Don't use someone's prescription medications. Medications can have side effects, may need special monitoring, or may interact poorly with other medicines. Medications are prescribed based on a physical examination, test results, health history and knowledge of other medicines a person is taking. A medication that is good for one person may be harmful to another.
5. Don't keep leftovers
Avoid using prescription medications from a previous illness. Even if your symptoms are the same, the condition and treatment may be different.
6. Be careful with herbal remedies
Don't take herbal or other alternative medicines without telling your doctor. Most people don't realize herbal remedies are drugs. Some can raise blood pressure, thin the blood or interact with other medications you may be taking. Be sure to get your doctor's approval before taking them and always mention any alternative treatments you use.
7. Follow your doctor's advice
Don't substitute the advice of friends or family for a doctor's expertise. A family remedy may be helpful or cause you no harm. It's always best to ask your doctor for a professional opinion.
8. Look for good information
Don't consult just any health book or internet site. If a book or website promises a magical cure or makes claims against the conventional medical approach, that's a good clue to be wary. Some internet sites are sponsored by companies that are more focused on selling their products than in serving your best interests. When in doubt, ask your doctor to recommend the best source of information for you.
9. Know when to call
How do you know when it's time to stop self-treating a health problem and call your doctor? One important clue: Are you getting better, or is the problem lingering or getting worse?
Examples of when to call: a cough that persist, a headache that won't go away or that keeps coming back, heartburn that keeps returning, and/or a fever that lasts more than a few days
Dawn Evans, MSN, RN is the Patient Safety Officer at Barton Health. March is Prescription Drug Awareness Month and, from March 12-18, National Patient Safety Awareness Week. Visit bartonhealth.org for more information.
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