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Keeping Ailments Away

Meena Gopal

By Ishrat Syed and Kalpana Swaminathan
Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2005, pp. 842, price not stated


The authors of this compendium on family health, Drs. Ishrat Syed and Kalpana Swaminathan, set the tone for the volume by debunking specialists in medicine in their foreword to the book. Specialists fragment the human body and compartmentalize each organ from another in the experience of illness. Doctors take for granted the need for comfort, protection and care even as they provide prescriptions and treatment, while families over-indulge in self-medication even for simple ailments. All of these unsettling experiences are to be overcome with the answers that this compendium provides. People experience illness differently and crave information and demand that something be done in the interim before approaching a doctor. The authors assure us that the compendium will provide answers on how to read what the body is saying, when to seek the doctor’s immediate help, how to respond immediately to discomfort, understand it without panicking, and when to communicate it to the doctor.   Numbering little over a thousand listings and spread over eight hundred pages, the entries in the compendium cover not just conditions of the body, ill health and disease, but descriptions of several parts of the body and its processes. They also include definitions of numerous medical terminologies and usages in health parlance that are often thrown at lay people’s faces, as well as several modes of investigation, treatment and care that have entered the medical market. Each entry describes the colloquial terms used to address the condition, common descriptions which include symptoms, causes, course and complications of the illness, and when the doctor should be approached. It also includes several suggestions on how to act in emergencies, with some quick aids, and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs).   A note on how to use the compendium at the outset, puts at ease anyone trying to search through the bulky volume, with a user-friendly index connecting common words used to describe conditions with their medical description. For instance, stomach ache in the index directs one to look at abdominal pain. Apart from quick aids that intersperse each entry, there is a separate section located at the end of the volume on certain commonly prescribed drug groups, informing the reader what drugs are contained in the groupings, how they act, when it should be taken and when to desist from doing so. This section on drug groups, spread over 30 pages is a source of some clarity ...

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