Playing Doctor – Should you self medicate?

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When is it okay to self-medicate and when should you see a doctor? Experts advice on the best course of action for different common ailments.


Do you often rummage through your medication box, in search of medication that you believe will resolve the ailments you are suffering from? Many people have no qualms about self-medication.

While the ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude towards medical treatment is usually not advisable, it does not seem practical for you to be at the clinic every time you feel under the weather.

Here are our experts’ take on when it is safe for you to take over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and when you should be seeing a doctor.

Flu and Cough


You may try self-medicating when:
You are suffering from a minor cough, sore throat or runny nose. “However, it is usually not advisable to take OTC cough and cold remedies for over one/two weeks.” said Dr Rupert See, Senior Physician at Raffles Medical.

Certain OTC medications may cause drowsiness and this is usually indicated on the label. You should not be driving or operating machinery when you are on these medications. Another point is, if you are allergic to “painkillers” (usually a class of drugs called NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), you should be careful about taking medicines like Nurofen. Nurofen contains “ibuprofen”, a type of NSAID.

A visit to the doctor is inevitable when:
You have more severe symptoms like high fever, body aches and/or chesty cough. These symptoms may be indicative of more serious conditions, e.g. bronchitis or pneumonia. In such cases, you may need antibiotics to get better.