When ‘playing doctor’ is more than just a children’s game

Published: August 25, 2013

Self-medication is fatal, and can at times lead to severe consequences. PHOTO: REUTERS

Pakistanis are known as the most versatile people on the planet. Each person thinks they have it all covered; they have enough knowledge to handle all the tasks like a pro. However, what really gets on my nerves the most is our well-read (not) fellow countrymen’s ability to diagnose a disease and prescribe the best totka or medicine to combat ‘that disease’.

For me, it all began when I started getting fever every evening. Initially, I did not give it much thought but when I started losing weight gradually, some acquaintances decided to begin their diagnostic practices on me. Measles, viral fever, malaria, iodine deficiency etc. were on the list of detected diseases — after my case was studied, of course. Apparently, just detection wasn’t enough, so they also forced me to take the drugs they recommended for these ailments.

Eventually, I consulted a real doctor who ran some tests that revealed that I had typhoid – not measles or dengue as some of my well wishers vehemently believed I had. The day my relatives found out about my illness, the phone was bombarded with phone calls and I got tired of scribbling down the most bizarre herbal or desi totkay.

One of my relatives went as far as to advise me to shave my head to prevent hair loss after typhoid!

While these peculiar home remedies were annoying and irritating, the efforts my family made actually showed how much they cared about me — and I did eventually realise this, however, I don’t know if they and many like them understand that sometimes self-medication can be fatal.

My 24-year-old cousin was falling sick every other day and his mother started giving him pills for fever, instead of sending him to a doctor, because popular opinion dictated so. Eventually, we found out that he had measles.

It is common knowledge that there is no medical cure for measles; the illness takes its own time to subside and medicine only worsens the case. That’s exactly what happened to him. After a few days, he had a really bad headache. His mother gave him a painkiller and just as he swallowed it, he fainted. He was rushed to the hospital. Doctors ran some tests on him and found that his brain had been badly damaged, and within two days he had succumbed to his ailment.

People should remember that self-medication can be very dangerous. One should consult a professional doctor when the need arises. That is the only proper and quickest route to recovery since this is what doctors are trained to do.



Kulsoom Inam

A sub-editor for the web desk at The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.