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COVID-19: Seek Medical Treatment and Don't Experiment with Your Life

Some self-treatment can be fatal!

by Eric Holdeman / March 24, 2020

Here are some medical tips that were shared with me. Many people who do get sick will have to stay home unless they need breathing assistance.

"It is risky to talk about what might work for an illness, because people might try to self-treat in a dangerous way. So here are some things not to do.

Don’t Drink Things Meant to Go in a Fish Tank: When President Trump stated that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine offer great promise in treating COVID-19, and that we urgently need to increase production (both true), an Arizona couple decided to self-treat with a product intended for their koi fish tank. Yes, it contained chloroquine phosphate. But what else? Products meant for aquaria may have a lot of unidentified substances in them. The fish do fine, but fish metabolism is very different from that of mammals. Shortages should be resolved soon, as production is ramped up. [Holdeman Note: the drug is not proven to work in treating COVID-19] Don’t try to DIY.

Don’t Take Drugs without Medical Advice: Chloroquine is very safe, as drugs go, and we have decades of experience with it. However, there is a long list of adverse effects, which can rarely be fatal. Retinal damage, hearing loss, tinnitus, balance problems, severe skin rashes, fatal heart rhythms, for example. There are drug interactions and contraindications, such as G6PD deficiency. Don’t know what that is? Maybe you should ask your doctor before you take a drug. The benefits may well exceed the risks — or may not be worth it if you are at low risk.

Don’t Assume That You Are OK If Your Temperature Is 98.6: This has long been considered to be the normal human body temperature. In fact, it’s an average of inaccurate measurements made long ago. Many people normally run a significantly lower temperature. Get a fever thermometer, check yourself when well, and learn what is normal for you. Also remember that some patients with COVID-19 never get a fever, or get one only very late. Importantly, if you treat the fever with Tylenol (acetaminophen or paracetamol) or ibuprofen, and it goes down, you are not necessarily getting better. You are suppressing your body’s defenses. Consider self-isolation.

Don’t Consider Yourself Invulnerable Because You Are Young: While older people are more likely to die if they get COVID-19, young persons can become extremely ill and die [Holdeman note: about 20% of COVID-19 hospitalizations are for younger people]. Fortunately, young children seem to do well themselves, although they may spread the virus without having any symptoms at all.

For further information, see our compendium of Coronavirus Articles.

Contact or (520) 323-3110. I would be happy to discuss these issues with you.

Jane M. Orient, M.D., Tucson, AZ

Executive Director, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)

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