Antibiotics: When are they needed?

Newsletter - Oct15 Antibiotics

With cold and flu season upon us, many are quick to see the doctor and request a treatment of antibiotics. Many have come to see antibiotics as a panacea or “quick fix” for a host of medical ailments, ranging from the common cold or influenza to conditions such as earaches. While some doctors are quick to reach for that prescription pad, what we find is that most of the time antibiotics are not needed and it may even be detrimental to take them if the illness is not properly diagnosed.

Most times when we are feeling far below our peak physical health, the cause can be found in viruses, which are not alleviated by antibiotics. If you find yourself with “cold” or “flu” symptoms, here are some things you should try before seeing your doctor:

  • Rest. When fighting an infection, your body needs lots of rest in order to recharge.
  • Fluids. Drink lots such as water, tea, soup and fruit juices. Keeping yourself hydrated helps thin secretions and will loosen phlegm.
  • OTC drugs. Over-the-counter drugs may help you cope with many of the symptoms of the common cold. If you have high blood pressure or a cardiac condition, please be aware of ingredients that may raise blood pressure (e.g. pseudophedrine) before taking them.
  • Gargle. Gargling with warm saltwater helps ease the pain of a sore throat. You may also try a saltwater nasal irrigation kit (neti pot) to assist with heavy congestion.
  • Time. Most colds run their course in 4-7 days. If you’re not feeling well, one of the best things to do is take some time off to recuperate and get your strength back. Even by the time you’re really at your worst, you will most likely already be on the road to recovery.

But I want antibiotics now, why should I wait?

As stated above, most times we are feeling ill, the cause can likely be found in a virus, which is not at all affected by antibiotics. Taking them, aside from being useless against a virus, would carry its own risks and side effects, and potentially could reduce antibiotics’ effectiveness in the future. Some of the side effects people feel include diarrhea, nausea, rashes and allergic reactions.

Studies now are finding greater importance in the role that normal flora in your intestinal tract plays in keeping you healthy. This “gut flora” is also living, positive bacteria. When antibiotics are ingested they attack all bacteria, good and bad alike. With these downsides, it is always best to err on the side of caution.

Ok, so when should I receive antibiotics?

Here are a few guidelines to judge whether your cold is something more serious:

  • You feel short of breath, even when you are not coughing.
  • You have a persistent fever above 102 F degrees (38.9 degrees Celsius) for three days or longer.
  • You have a sore throat, fever above 38.0C and headache, but no runny nose or a cough.
  • You have been sick for 10-14 days and are not getting better.

Someone once said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. One easy way to protect yourself this winter is to make sure you are protected against most strains of the influenza virus (again something antibiotics are powerless against). FirstMed has this year’s vaccination and a special offer for those who sign up for a weekend visit or a trip to our Hűvösvölgy location for their shot. Please click here for more details.