April 6, 2022
Life-Breath: Steve Reid, Neusa Torres

The Life Breath panel comprised Professor Steve Reid, a family physician with a background in rural medicine, who gave a presentation titled Breathing And Singing Through Covid-19 and Dr Neusa Torres who is a Mozambican anthropologist and has a PhD in Public Health. Her presentation was titled The Practice Of Self-Medication With Antibiotics For Viral Respiratory Tract Infections. The Life Breath panel was moderated by Dr Berna Gerber, head of Division of Speech-Language and Hearing Therapy, Stellenbosch University

Reid speaks of the impact of human connection between Covid patients and healthcare workers. He feels that this connection contributed immensely to the recovery and wellbeing of some patients. Torres delves into the topic of self-medication with antibiotics for viral respiratory tract infections for which symptoms usually resolve within seven to ten days without antibiotic treatment. She speaks about the abuse and easy access of such medication. 

Watch the full conversation here and keep reading for key quotes by each panelist. 

 Steve Reid

  • We were about 30 South African doctors and there were another 18 Cuban doctors who joined us and we treated a total of 1,500 patients over 10 weeks.

  • Over the 10 weeks there were 81 deaths.

  • We were getting into July and I was tired of the almost industrial kind of environment, surely we could do some singing here.

  • One Sunday afternoon I went to the matron and asked, do any of your nurses sing? She said she knew some of them and she put the word out. So I said could we do some singing in the wards? And she said yes.

  • It was the most extraordinary, joyous afternoon, it was just amazing, just like the lid came off of this suppressed sense of anxiety and worry about the medical side of things and people had been desperate to sing and to move and to dance and to just let go.

  • We did it again. I went most Sunday afternoons, and we sang through the wards.

  • By the end, it became routine. This is what we do on Sundays, you know, we go through the wards singing Zulu gospel songs. 

  • It really transformed the space from this factory-like medical environment to one in which we could really be human together. 

  • But specifically, the singing together, I think allows humanity to be expressed despite the barriers of personal protective equipment – which were significant. 

Neusa Torres 

  • My presentation to this symposium is regarding the use of antibiotics for self-medication for viral respiratory tract infections. 

  • The practice of self-medication with antibiotics, as well as non-prescribed antibiotic dispensing, undermines the global efforts to rationalise the use of antibiotics that contain resistance. 

  • Flu-like symptoms usually resolve within seven to 10 days without antibiotic treatment. However, these symptoms prompt patients to make therapeutic decisions and indulge in utilisation of antibiotics without consulting a physician.

  • In this study, I found that participants have ways to request or to have access to antibiotics without prescriptions, which are: 

- Referring to the scientific, generic or brand names of antibiotics when going to the pharmacy. 

- Using old prescriptions. This means that the patients went to see a physician or health professional before and reused the prescription for new sickness events, and

- Sharing health information and antibiotics with family members, friends or neighbours, which means that some of the participants had leftover antibiotics and shared with other relatives or friends. 

  • Some people think they don't need doctors; instead of going to the doctor, there is a concerning barrier of self-medication.

  • Individuals take action and play an active role in their health disease process. They indulge in the practice of self medication and use antibiotics or any other medical resources available. 

  • So people socially construct the meaning of medicines and link it to their own state of health to cope with it within the context of their daily life. 

  • So this practice of self-medication with antibiotics for viral respiratory tract infections emphasises this self-reliance and individual responsibility for one's lung health, while contrasting with global public health efforts to control antibiotic use.