No matter what online or book information you’re using, remember that self-diagnosis can be a risky idea. It’s not as easy as it may seem and could lead you to incorrect, and potentially dangerous, conclusions.
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Feel free to research your symptoms, but let your doctor decide what’s ailing you. Here are five mistakes that could hurt instead of heal.
1. You take an OTC remedy without reading the label
When it comes to over-the-counter drugs, many people have a blasé attitude, thinking “They can’t really hurt me, right?” Wrong. Plenty of people end up with serious health problems from accidentally taking too much of an over-the-counter drug (such as a painkiller), overusing drugs such as laxatives or acid blockers, or taking something that interferes with another medication they’re on. No matter how safe a drug may seem, it’s always smart to read the label. It might surprise you.
2. You take an anti-diarrheal if you have a fever
Never treat yourself at home with a diarrhea remedy if you also have a fever or if there’s blood or mucus in your bowel movements. These are signs of an infection and warrant a call to your doctor.
3. You take a daily aspirin without asking your doctor
Some people shouldn’t take aspirin every day, especially since it can cause stomach bleeding. Doctors usually recommend it only for people who have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Women may not benefit as much from aspirin therapy as men. And some people appear to be resistant to aspirin’s anti-clotting effects. (Tests are available to check for aspirin resistance, though some doctors question their accuracy).
4. You quit an anti-anxiety med cold turkey
If you’ve been taking an anti-anxiety medicine for a long time, do not quit abruptly. Talk to your doctor about how to gradually taper the dose. Otherwise, you could experience very serious complications such as seizures.
5. You use old antibiotics for a new infection
First, you should have finished the entire prescription the first time around. Second, many antibiotics are specific to the type of infection you have. Taking the wrong antibiotic might not work and can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, making treatment for that type of infection more difficult the next time.