The “disease” of Romanians to treat themselves. When pharmacy rapid tests really help and what patients need to do

If 20 years ago rapid tests, which can be bought at the pharmacy or ordered on the Internet, were few and quite expensive, today they are available to anyone. Doctors say, however, that these are useful if, once the question mark is raised, we then turn to the specialist, without trying to self-diagnose and treat ourselves.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of rapid tests has become commonplace PHOTO: Pixabay

In this period, when respiratory viruses give Romanians a lot of trouble, the rapid tests allowed the rapid differentiation of flu cases. Many family doctors have them in their offices, the tests are also in the emergency room, but also many patients bought them themselves from the pharmacy.

“Tests that are for certain microbes or viruses in general are correct. It didn't happen to me to do one here and go to the hospital and have another test show something else.” says family doctor Viorel Dumitrescu.

Useful in detecting cases of influenza

It is important to differentiate a case of the flu from a common cold because the treatment will be different. A wider range of tests would even be needed, Dr. Dumitrescu believes.

“They came out for strep, and normally hospitals and polyclinics should have them, they also came out for respiratory syncytial virus. But, from the experience that my sister communicated to me, from Sweden, there they do it in the emergency room, depending on the symptoms. (…) It would have been really useful for respiratory syncytial virus and it would also have been very useful for a streptococcus that is now circulating in Europe, which causes tonsillitis, up to pneumonia”the doctor added.

However, patients buy tests from pharmacies not only on the doctor's prescription. They also test their triglyceride levels, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc. at home.

“You can't ban tests. You ban the antibiotic, you ban certain drugs that can have psychotropic effects, but you cannot ban this, because it is a way for the patient to get rid of a fear or to motivate a certain treatment”is the opinion of the family doctor.

What patients should understand, instead, is that certain results must be interpreted taking into account a lot of other information, and that only the doctor can do.

“Cholesterol, triglyceride tests – they are useful in offices, in polyclinics, not at home. Because he does them for nothing. (…) If you know that the person has familial dyslipidemia, you know that he has had high cholesterol since he was 20 years old, you treat him differently therapeutically. If it is found by chance, you try to change their diet, but everything takes time, to talk to them, to explain to them”, says family doctor Mihai Ungureanu.

Moreover, the time at which the test is taken also matters. If you consumed four beers the day before, the result for triglycerides will most likely be high, explains doctor Ungureanu.

Likewise, in the case of the test indicating the presence of a urinary infection, the doctor must be notified, who will most likely prescribe other analyzes and antibiogram and recommend treatment. However, there are still patients who, after performing a test, run and buy antibiotics from the pharmacy, possibly after doing a Google search.

“There are a few that are actually useful”

Pharmacist Luiza Drăgoi claims that rapid tests, used as an alarm signal, help.

“There are a few that are really useful, because they are no longer treated like that, by ear, as far as I know, and they go quickly. It is also mentioned on the test that you must see a doctor for a specialist consultation. For example, the ones in the case of the flu-COVID were very useful, in my opinion, because most people were getting bogged down and were on the wrong track”said Drăgoi.