Pharmacist’s advice: Symptoms that keep coming back

Timothy Ngobeni of Medipost Pharmacy. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Non-prescription medicines can be helpful for occasional, short-term use, but if you find yourself turning more often to self-care medication for relief of problematic symptoms, there could be cause for concern.

“Recurring symptoms often lead people to seek quick relief through self-care medications, but it’s crucial to understand when these symptoms could indicate an underlying health issue that needs professional medical attention,” said pharmacist Timothy Ngobeni of Medipost Pharmacy, South Africa’s first national courier pharmacy.

He added that self-care medication is only intended for minor, temporary ailments that don’t usually require a doctor’s consultation. Having a headache once in a while or experiencing mild common flu symptoms for a few days is not unusual, and there are medication your pharmacist can recommend for relieving the discomfort.

“As with any medication, it is extremely important that self-care products, such as those available for delivery from, are taken only as directed. Do not 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,” said Ngobeni.

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,” he further said.

Go to the doctor if:

  • The pain continues or gets worse, even with pain relief medication
  • You have other symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, or weakness
  • Your daily functioning is difficult due to pain
  • Your pain doesn’t improve with rest or self-care remedies

“A urinary tract infection, often abbreviated to UTI, is a common bacterial infection of the urinary system, including the bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra. Symptoms include needing to urinate often or suddenly, a painful or burning feeling when urinating and urine that is cloudy or smells bad,” said Ngobeni.

He added that often the pain and discomfort caused by UTIs can be relieved with non-prescription medications like flavoxate but if the symptoms persist or you 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 your 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 to 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,” he said.

Make an appointment with your doctor or clinic if you 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 your daily activities
  • The fungal infection comes back soon after using antifungal medication

“You can discuss any potential health concerns or symptoms, no matter how private, with a pharmacist for guidance. Always let your doctor or pharmacist know if you have been on any treatment, prescription medicine and for how long,” Ngobeni advised.

Compiled by Justine Fortuin