December 2, 2022

Be aware of antibiotics: use only as directed


You woke up with a sore throat. You feel a little tired and sore but have no other symptoms. No sniffles, no sneezes, no coughs, so you think you’ll feel better if you get up and go. But the sore throat persists for a few days and you start to have a mild fever. Not surprisingly, you think you have strep throat (group A strep), a bacterial infection. You think you need an antibiotic.

Maybe you do. But again, maybe not. Most sore throats are caused by viral infections, and time and time again I have told you that antibiotics cannot cure a viral infection. Taking an antibiotic when not needed can lead to antibiotic resistance, which is not only dangerous but potentially fatal.

Let’s review. Bacteria are living organisms that exist as individual cells. We have tons of them in our bodies, most of them are beneficial. Pests multiply and interfere with our normal bodily processes.

Viruses, on the other hand, are not alive and cannot live on their own. These are particles containing genetic material wrapped in a protein shell. Antibiotics do not fight viruses that cause infections like the common cold, the flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections.

“Antibiotics can save lives, but any time antibiotics are used they can cause side effects and contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. “Each year, at least 28% of antibiotics are unnecessarily prescribed in physician offices and emergency rooms across the United States, making improving antibiotic prescribing and use a national priority. “

Here is the frightening statistic: “Each year in the United States, at least 2.8 million people are infected with bacteria or fungi resistant to antibiotics, and more than 35,000 people die from them. If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then we lose the ability to treat infections and control public health threats. “

“If you take an antibiotic when you actually have a viral infection, the antibiotic attacks the bacteria in your body – bacteria that are either beneficial or at least not causing disease,” the Mayo Clinic explained. “This misguided treatment can then promote the antibiotic resistance properties of harmless bacteria that can be shared with other bacteria, or create an opportunity for potentially harmful bacteria to replace harmless ones.”

So you can ask, “Why would we have received an antibiotic if we didn’t need it?” That’s a great question. Kids Health says doctors can prescribe an antibiotic when they are unsure of the cause of illness or while they are waiting for test results.

Going back to that sore throat you had at the start of this article, you may have told your primary care provider that you had strep throat, even though you clearly didn’t know it. Often, PCPs will rely on your description to make a diagnosis, especially during a telemedicine visit. And some people buy antibiotics online. It’s true. Search it on Google.

Even if you are the captain of your healthcare team, allow your PCP to make a diagnosis based solely on your symptoms. Don’t give advice like, “My snot was green, so I have a bacterial infection.” It doesn’t hold water. There are a lot of reasons why your mucus can be green.

Let minor illnesses take their course. For example, flu symptoms should start to subside after about a week. But, if the symptoms persist or you feel less well, you may have a secondary infection that will need to be treated with antibiotics. This is when you need to call the doctor.

When prescribed antibiotics, be sure to take them as directed. Do not stop taking them when you feel better. Do not save any for next time. Not all antibiotics are created equal. The one prescribed for one infection may be ineffective in another. And, above all, never – I repeat – never take an antibiotic prescribed for another person.

“Ask your doctor for advice on how to treat the symptoms,” suggests Mayo. “Practice good hygiene to avoid bacterial infections that require antibiotic treatment. And make sure you and your children get the recommended immunizations.

If you wake up with a sore throat, stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, and get well quickly.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of the Advisory Board of the Bonner General Health Foundation. She can be contacted at [email protected]