Health & wellbeing

Unnecessary medication use contributes to medication-related problems and increased costs.

As the temperatures drop, and people return to schools and workplaces after summer, the flu season begins. Alongside the flu season, the risk of overusing medication and experiencing medication-related issues increases.

"During the flu season, many turn to over-the-counter medications to alleviate symptoms. People often buy familiar over-the-counter drugs out of habit. However, even a familiar product can sometimes be harmful if used in conjunction with other medications," warns Henna Kyllönen, Expert Pharmacist at the Finnish Pharmacists' Association.

This year's updated self-medication guidelines, "Käypä hoito," emphasize that all medications can have adverse effects and interactions when used concurrently with other medications. When practicing self-medication, it is essential to consider all other medications and over-the-counter products being used.

For instance, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are unsuitable for patients with heart or kidney failure, arterial disease, or risk factors for it. NSAIDs should not be taken by individuals using anticoagulants like warfarin or other blood-thinning medications or those with gastrointestinal bleeding issues. Different NSAIDs should also not be used simultaneously.

"Always ensure the compatibility of your medications with the pharmacy's pharmaceutical staff," Kyllönen advises.

To alleviate symptoms of a cold or nasal congestion, many turn to nasal sprays that constrict blood vessels in the nasal mucous membrane. When using nasal sprays, it's crucial to note that they are intended for short-term use only.

"Nasal sprays should be used for a maximum of about a week. Pharmacies occasionally encounter cases where customers have used the spray for an extended period and even become addicted to it. When overused, the medication does more harm than good," Kyllönen explains.

Prolonged use of nasal sprays can lead to impaired nasal cilia function, swelling of the mucous membrane, and increased secretions.

Unnecessary medication use contributes to medication-related problems and increased costs. Therefore, discussing one's medication regimen with a pharmacist is advisable.

"At the pharmacy, we can assess whether symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter medication or if non-medication approaches would be more suitable. Sometimes, instead of selling an over-the-counter drug, we may advise the customer to see a doctor," Kyllönen says.

Kyllönen also reminds us that according to the "Käypä hoito" guidelines, the primary treatment for flu symptoms is rest.