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Antibiotics aren't always the answer

What's Going Around week of November 28th, 2016

Antibiotics aren't always the answer
Antibiotics aren't always the answer

Cold and flu season can wreak all sorts of havoc on the immune system.

It can be easy to want to call the doctor looking for antibiotics at the first sign of illness.

Too much isn’t good for you

According to Daniel Allan, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, most illnesses are viral, and taking unnecessary antibiotics will actually do more harm than good.

“Antibiotics, if they’re used inappropriately, will give you side effects – diarrhea, nausea, not feeling well,” said Dr. Allan. “It can create future resistance to infections.”

Dr. Allan said that even when used appropriately, over-use of antibiotics can create resistant bacteria two to six months beyond when the prescription was taken, so it’s not a good idea to use them unless folks really need them.

Most illnesses are viral

Dr. Allan said that when a child comes home complaining of a sore throat – usually only one in five will actually have strep throat.

He said that unless a doctor does a strep culture and confirms it is strep throat, antibiotics are not recommended.

Likewise, 95 percent of chest colds are viral and will not be helped with an antibiotic.

Let the doctor diagnose it

Dr. Allan said it can be difficult for patients to know the root cause of their symptoms when they start feeling under the weather, so it’s best to get evaluated by a doctor to avoid falling for any common illness myths.

“It’s very difficult for a patient to know for themselves,” said Dr. Allan. “Often times there’s a myth that green mucus means you have a bacterial infection and that is not the case; it just means your immune systems is fighting an infection, it does not tell you it’s bacterial.”

Dr. Allan said regardless of whether an illness is caused by bacteria or a virus, it’s best to get plenty of rest and fluids and for everyone to stay at home until they are feeling better and are no longer contagious.