Beware of non-prescription flu medications!

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La prise de médicaments, même anodins en apparence, présente toujours des risques d’effets secondaires.

The use of over-the-counter flu medication is not without risk. Doctors and health professionals constantly warn against this practice, the consequences of which can be quite serious.

The use of self-medication, particularly against the flu, is commonplace in Morocco. Patients do not hesitate to acquire over-the-counter medications without consulting a doctor to relieve flu-related symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and headaches. This practice is not without danger. Doctors and health professionals constantly warn about the risks of self-medication while stressing that the consequences can be quite serious in some cases.

Joined by “Le Matin”, Dr. Tayeb Hamdi, medical researcher in health policies and systems, confirms that, in general, the use of drugs without the advice of the doctor is an extremely dangerous practice. “All medicines must be subject, and whatever the disease, must be the subject of a medical opinion except for vitamins and food supplements”, he insists. About self-medication against the flu, Dr. Hamdi warns of the risk of a false diagnosis. “Headaches, runny nose or even sore throat are symptoms that are systematically attributed to the flu when they may well indicate another illness requiring rapid treatment to avoid any aggravation of the situation. “, underlines our interlocutor. And to remember that “only the doctor is authorized to diagnose the disease and the method of treatment to be followed”.

Dr. Hamdi does not fail to point the finger at the use of antibiotics as soon as the first symptoms appear. He explains, in this regard, that the seasonal flu is a viral disease whose treatment does not necessarily require an antibiotic. Worse still, the doctor-researcher says that the frequent consumption of an antibiotic leads to what is called antibiotic resistance, that is to say that the bacteria are transformed and develop defense mechanisms that diminish or even cancel the action of the antibiotics that fight it. Dr. Hamdi thus joins the opinion of most doctors who constantly remind us that antibiotics are only prescribed in the event of superinfection observed in the patient. As such, the doctor would like to point out that parents have developed this reflex of administering an antibiotic to their child as soon as he begins to cough or sneeze. This phenomenon is observed during the autumn season during which children are more exposed to the risk of virus contamination.

Indeed, just go to any pharmacy to see that many parents buy antibiotics without the opinion of the pediatrician. A precision of great importance: The treatment of the flu differs from one patient to another. “An elderly person should not take the same medications as a pregnant woman, a cancer patient or even a young person who does not suffer from any severe illness,” he emphasizes. In other words, the doctor indicates that there is no “standard” flu treatment that the pharmacy can dispense. “The prescription of drugs is done through a doctor who takes into consideration several factors, including age, other diseases from which the patient suffers, his allergy to components of the drug as well as his ability to resist the virus” , he explains.

On this aspect, the doctor specifies that taking medication, even innocuous in appearance, always presents risks of side effects and that in the elderly, physiological aging and the frequency of associated diseases increase this danger. Likewise, he notes, drugs stay longer and in greater quantities in the body. “Their slowed renal elimination, their accumulation in fats and their more aggressive passage through the brain make the elderly much more vulnerable to drugs”, he specifies. Another danger of self-medication, and not the least: the misuse or misuse of drugs. This is what doctors call misuse. “This can take many forms such as errors in dosage and taking different drugs at the same time, mutually modifying their effectiveness. This danger is acutely present in the elderly and those with weakened immunity. This category of the population requires monitoring to avoid any aggravation of their situation”, notes the specialist.

The specialist is also appealing to vulnerable people to receive their flu shots. It also calls on the entire population to complete their vaccination schedule against Covid-19 to avoid serious forms of the disease and death. This is all the more important this year since the risk of a Covid-19 and seasonal flu co-infection is still present, as Covid-19 has not yet disappeared from society. It should be noted, moreover, that self-medication can concern modern medicine as well as traditional medicine. Studies have shown that Moroccans tend to use more plants and traditional pharmacopoeia products for treatment, which is also not without danger. According to the Poison Control and Pharmacovigilance Center of Morocco, some 4% of people poisoned by plants and traditional pharmacopoeia products die. Vigilance is therefore essential!

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