Differences between acute medication & chronic medication

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    Do you understand the difference between acute medication and chronic medication? Many people struggle with this concept because it can become confusing. Acute medication is meant to be used for a short amount of time in order to treat an illness or condition that is short-term, usually less than a month. Whereas chronic medication is meant for several months to years. Some types of acute medications can be obtained over the counter with the help of your pharmacist, while other types need to be prescribed by your GP. Most chronic medication is prescribed by your doctor. Bloom, a leading health insurance broker, discusses the differences between these two types of medication and illnesses in more detail to provide some clarity on the subject.

    What is a chronic illness?

    Chronic disease is a persistent medical or health condition that one might experience for long periods of time or their entire lifetime and develops gradually over time. Typically, the disease or condition cannot be cured so must be treated or managed to alleviate symptoms or prevent complications. Chronic conditions are often hereditary in nature but can also be linked to age, gender, environmental factors, or lifestyle choices.

    Some of the more common chronic conditions include asthma, bipolar mood disorder, Type 2 diabetes, epilepsy, glaucoma, hypertension (or high blood pressure) Hyperlipidaemia (or high cholesterol) or Thyroid Disease.

    How do you treat a chronic illness?

    Chronic conditions are treated with specialised medication plans that are prescribed by specialists and GPs, the frequency of which will vary by the condition or the severity of the condition. People who have diabetes, for instance, are treated with glucose-lowering tablets or insulin, while those who have bipolar disorder are treated with mood stabilising medication. The Momentum Health4Me Gold health insurance plan covers members for 26 chronic medical conditions. This means you will receive unlimited chronic medication in accordance with the Momentum CareCross Network prescribed medical formulary once pre-authorisations and waiting periods have been approved. 

    What is an acute illness?

    An acute illness usually indicates a disease or injury that has a rapid onset and is highly likely to clear up in a short amount of time (less than 4 weeks), given the right treatment or medication. Symptoms that are typical of an acute illness include fever, sore throat, running or blocked nose, cough, headache, diarrhoea, vomiting or earache. There are also serious acute illnesses, such as appendicitis, pneumonia or bronchitis. With the exception of serious acute illnesses, most of these problems can be treated with acute medication that is designed to be taken for a short amount of time only. This type of medication can be obtained over the counter following the advice from your pharmacist at your local pharmacy or can be prescribed to you following a consultation with your local GP.

    What are common acute medications in South Africa?

    Some of the most common over the counter medications that can be stocked in your medical cabinet or emergency first-aid kit include:

    • Aspirin/paracetamol/ibuprofen or other painkillers used to treat fever, headaches or body pains
    • Decongestants (like nasal sprays and medication) for colds and flu
    • Cough syrup for a cough
    • Antihistamines for allergies
    • Eye drops for eye irritations
    • Antacids, like Eno or Gaviscon, for digestive complaints or heartburn
    • Imodium for diarrhoea

    How do you treat an acute illness?

    Depending on the nature and seriousness of the illness, you could choose to self-medicate using over the counter medication or you could book a consult with your GP or go to ER in an emergency to get a diagnosis and prescribed acute medication. If you choose to go the former route, we advise using the Hello Doctor App, which is a free online platform specifically designed to assist you with medical advice. You can ask medical-related questions with a quick turnaround time of approximately one hour.

    Does Momentum Health4Me health insurance cover acute medication?

    Yes, there is an acute medication benefit on the Bronze, Silver and Gold health insurance plans, and you will be covered for acute medication that is prescribed in accordance with the Momentum CareCross Network acute medication formulary. Members are asked to be aware that there are certain protocols that need to be followed. For more detailed information about this benefit, you can speak to a consultant who can outline the guidelines.

    Discover what’s available: health insurance plans South Africa

    Discover health insurance plans that work for you and get cover for both chronic or acute medication when you need it. Bloom is committed to helping our members get the best possible healthcare services with the right health insurance plan. Momentum Health4Me health insurance plans have been created with the intention of being budget-friendly and quality-driven. Contact our offices to speak to a consultant or to set up an appointment to discuss your options. 

    Medical Content Disclaimer

    You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.

    dr korangteng peprah obstetrician and gynaecologist

    Dr Bianca Lewarne

    General Practitioner
    MBChB, University of Witwatersrand

    011 803-9392


    This content has been reviewed and approved by Dr Bianca Lewarne. She is a General Practitioner in family medicine in Sandton, Johannesburg.
    Dr Lewarne is registered with the Health Professions Council South Africa (HPCSA).

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