A doctor’s take on medicines to be avoided by the elderly when battling Covid-19

July 09, 2021

When treating Covid-19, one must consult a doctor for proper course and avoid self-medicating at all costs.

Covid-19, a novel virus that throttled the world. This virus has spared no one and in this second wave, we have to be all the more careful in following all the protocols of making and social distancing to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. There is also a special responsibility towards the elderly at our home. The elderly are usually on various medications for pre-existing conditions and it is important to consult a doctor before starting them on any treatment so that there are no complications due to the medications they are already taking.

The problem these days is that most doctors are heavily caught up with workload due to the astronomical number of cases. In such a scenario, while you attempt to liaise with your doctor, you may also have to rise up to the challenge and take care of the elderly at home. Hence, we have put together good practices on administering medicines to the elderly amidst Covid-19.

Diabetic and people with hypertension should continue their medicines

Your parents require good care for their health and appropriate medicines, even when managing Covid-19. However, do not purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medicines on your own accord.

“It is advisable to take the medications always in consultation with the family doctor or general physicians. Medicines that improve immunity such as vitamins (vitamin C and vitamin B12), calcium supplements etc. are recommended. These medicines boost the body’s general immunity but may not be enough to prevent a viral transmission or infection. Those who are suffering from hypertension or diabetes should continue their anti-diabetic and antihypertensive medicines regularly as advised by their doctors,” suggests Dr Mahesh Kumar M Lakhe, consultant – internal medicine & infectious diseases at Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune (Unit of Manipal).

Be careful with steroids

We must keep in mind that Covid- 19 could affect people with comorbidities severely. Meaning that people with underlying heart conditions, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, diseases of kidney, lungs, liver and cancer(s) are more likely to get infected and have a severe infection. Two things are very important for such people: 

  • a) continuing their regular medicines to manage their conditions; and 
  • b) getting vaccinated at the earliest. 

Besides, they must adopt proven strategies against transmission of Covid-19 even after vaccination, including use of authentic N95 masks, maintaining hand and general hygiene, and physical distancing when outdoors. 

Please note that medicines such as Ivermectin, Hydroxychloroquine, Azithromycin, Doxycycline, Montair Lukast or home remedies such as inhaling steam, drinking hot water, gargling with betadine, taking steroids and arsenic album have not been proven to prevent Covid-19 and its further transmission. 

“Medicines like ivermectin are not developed for Covid-19; in fact, there is no medicine to prevent or cure coronavirus disease anywhere in the world. The World Health Organization has categorically asked not to use ivermectin, except for clinical trial settings,” says Dr Lakhe. 

He adds, “The medicine is also contraindicated for pregnancy. We have seen how medicines like hydroxychloroquine, used in the initial period of pandemic, are no longer used as the benefits cannot be backed by evidence. We do not know yet if they have caused any harm to the patients, but we may expect some studies in that direction in future.”

Post vaccination care is also important 

In case your parents got their vaccination, then consult your doctor to understand if alterations are required with the medicines to manage side effects, if any. 

Another important consideration is that if your parents or the elderly at home are taking medicines apart for managing blood pressure or diabetes, such as anti-anxiety pills, thyroids malfunctioning pills and asthma, then you need to consult your doctor before buying any OTC pills before and after getting vaccinated.

The bottom line

So, at the moment, vaccination seems to be the most viable option to ensure that the elderly are protected against Covid-19. It is critical to consult a doctor to understand the side effects that may happen due to the existing medications. Also, avoid giving them any kind of medication just because someone has recommended it on social media or WhatsApp. The bottom line is that be very cautious with them and don’t let their immune response drop at any point of time. 

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