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With more people than ever getting diagnosed with COVID, many are self medicating and delaying treatment, some even resorting to crossing the border to buy medications that are not effective and dangerous.
We called a pharmacy across the border to ask about hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug once touted by President Donald Trump as a cure for COVID. Doctors did not include hydroxychloroquine in Trump’s COVID treatment and the FDA has since pulled it from its emergency use list because it showed no benefit and had serious side effects, like: heart, liver and kidney failure.
The pharmacist said they do not prescribe or give advice about medications but he did say they do sell it a lot to people in the U.S. cross the border to buy it to treat COVID without a prescription. The cost is about $40 for 20 pills.
This is a problem, says Dr. Kinji Hawthorne, the infectious disease director at JFK Memorial Hospital, he’s treated thousands of COVID patients since March.
“When people go out and try to self medicate the issue is that they have in mind to try to treat or prevent COVID-19 but the actual medication can cause significant effects that can actually result in death,” says Dr. Hawthorne.
He says people do this out of desperation because there really is no effective home treatment, “I completely that they are scared and they are desperate to try to find something that is going to be a remedy but unfortunately the trials, the studies that have been done have not shown any particular effectiveness in taking hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.”
Dr. Hawthorne says if you have mild symptoms you can treat them at home with fever reducers like Tylenol, Advil or Motrin, but only when you need it because when the doctor calls you don’t want to tell him you don’t have a fever when you do.
“You want to know when your fever is persisting and not responding to the medications … if you have a persistent cough, taking an antitussive, like Robitussin, muscle aches, acetaminophen or taking ibuprofen, you want to stay hydrated and you also want to try to keep your nutrition up which will help your immune system,” says Hawthorne adding that vitamin C and Zinc can also be helpful.
Dr. Hawthorne says it’s the same story in many patients, seven to ten days after the onset of symptoms, “That’s when we know when the symptoms actually get worse,” adding that’s when they seek help at the hospital, something he’s seen a lot of lately.
He says even hospitals are limited on treatments but over the months they have found a combination of drugs that are helping people recover faster.
He says well meaning family and friends will offer advice and home remedies but it’s important to be in contact with your doctor because only they know your medical history and medications you’re taking.
And most importantly, do not wait to call your doctor and go to the hospital if you are having trouble breathing or have underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or hypertension.
“Please pay attention to your body and don’t try to self medicate when you know that you are beyond a certain point,” says Hawthorne.
The Centers for Disease Control, CDC, put out these guidelines on when to seek emergency help:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.
For more information what to do if you have COVID click here: CDC COVID
For more information about FDA’s hydrochloroquine warning click here: FDA