Way back in the 1970s my relation, Dr. Udosen Antia (God rest his soul) told me that whenever a patient tells him “Doctor, I have malaria,” he usually told the person “Okay. Go and treat yourself.” I learnt then to explain symptoms to a doctor rather than tell him or her the type of illness I was faced with.

Years later in Omoku, Rivers State, I got to know Dr. Otonye Danagogo of Gbeye Clinic. After explaining how you feel, he would most likely give you pain relievers plus a form for the lab. He can never commence treatment until the lab result is out except in emergency cases. In 20 years of using his clinic, I am so used to this approach that wherever I am I prefer to start with lab test before approaching a doctor.

The reason is simple. Stress for instance sometimes manifest the same symptoms as malaria. An average Chemist will “mix” drugs which could suppress an illness or give temporary relieve. Such mixtures (alchemy) could even completely sort out another problem rather than the actual, current, illness after all much of medical practice is psychology.  Pharmacists research, develop, and compound drugs but they are not trained to fully diagnose and treat diseases. Diagnosis and treatment are for medical doctors. Imagine for instance complaining of dull ache in the stomach and being treated for constipation when one of the cancers of the digestive system has commenced!

From benign at the early stage, it graduates to malignant and late treatment simply pushes the person into the statistics of fatalities. A family friend had duodenal cancer but for a long time but managed it as stomach ulcer until it was too late. Early detection is key to successful treatment and detection is best handled via extensive tests.

Two weeks ago I was at the Medini Medical Diagnostic Lab at Uyo. Verdict: no malaria; traces of typhoid (likely arising from fruits. In spite of washing fruits with warm water, some germs still sneak through). It was treated.

Still feeling some discomfort, I went back today. Verdict: no malaria; no typhoid. Something else was seen through full blood count.

It may cost a little extra (N1,200 for malaria parasite and widal, that is typhoid test), yet the benefits are overwhelming. Imagine self-medication for three or four times when all you need is extra sleep or rest.

Like the DG of World Health Organization advised on COVID-19, it should be TEST, TEST, TEST. Better knowledge implies better treatment (so that witches and wizards can have peace). Stay healthy.

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