Self-diagnosis sees upward trend amid the pandemic

Health Lifestyle Pandemic

Doctors say it can endanger people’s health

With easy access to the Web, more and more people have been self-diagnosing during the pandemic., This poses an immense threat to people’s health, according to experts

Amit Maheshwari, a general physician practising in Bengaluru, explained to The Observer: “I get a lot of cases like these. People self-diagnose and do not come for consultation until their condition has worsened severely. It is always better to get a proper diagnosis during the early stages, even if it is a minor health condition, because what we prescribe to a patient is usually based on what other health problems he or she might have. Maybe some medication might trigger these other ailments, but when people take medicines without a prescription, they do not keep these factors in mind.”

Many people also take excessive doses of their medications. Isha Rastogi, whose father is a diabetes patient, said: “My father always self-diagnoses. During the festive season, when he eats a lot of sweets, he takes two of the prescribed tablets instead of one without asking the doctor beforehand. I am concerned and I always tell him off for this.”

People who have some knowledge about medications also contribute to this situation by prescribing people basic  medicines.

Pravin Gupta, an accounts officer, said: “I have been working in a hospital for very long now. Generally, we know some basic medication that is prescribed to patients…. When my family and friends consult me during an emergency, I prescribe them the same. People avoid going for consultations these days because of traffic, added expenses or Covid fear in hospitals. So they seek these shortcuts for prescriptions.”

Rajath Pejaver, a Bengaluru neonatologist, discourages this habit. “Many drugs contain ingredients that some people might be fatally allergic to. We have to be conscious about that while prescribing any medication. People who do not have proper knowledge of medicine will not know these things. Even professionals sometimes make major mistakes in this area; you cannot expect any other person to be that careful,” he said.

Similar problems occur when people follow prescriptions that are available on the Web. “I have seen many YouTubers make videos about what people should take. This might lead to very serious, even fatal, health problems,” he added.

Dr. Maheshwari said: “Home remedies are another reason that people avoid a proper prescription and consultation. People read these DIY home remedies on the Internet and do not get actual medication until it is very late. Not that these remedies are harmful, but many times they don’t help in any major way.”

People have a habit of googling their symptoms, which usually exaggerates the diagnosis. For example, minor chest burn is a common phenomenon that might even occur during acidity. But people get worried and take hard medication based on these symptoms, he added.

Pharmacists in Bengaluru see many such customers. Yogesh Tiwari, the owner of MedPlus, Banashankari, shared: “Out of 100 or 150 customers that we get in a day, 20 to 30 percent come without any proper prescription. We are not allowed to sell prescription drugs without a prescription, but sometimes we make an exception.”

The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, regulates the import, manufacture, and distribution of drugs in the country. The Act lists several drugs as ‘prescription drugs’. It is illegal to sell prescription drugs without a proper prescription by a professional. Only over-the-counter drugs are legally available without a prescription. But people self-diagnose and buy medicines without prescription, potentially endangering their lives.


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