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Antibiotics Are Not Always the Answer

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

When a virus attacks be careful how you fight back. Most illnesses, like colds and the flu, are caused by viruses.

Unfortunately, antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

With this in mind, don’t rush to your doctor the next time you get the sniffles. Chances are your illness is viral and will resolve itself on its own within 10-14 days. Remember, antibiotics are strong medications. Use them only when necessary. This will ensure they are fully effective when you need them to be. For more information, go to capitalhealth.com and search “antibiotics.”

When a Virus Attacks Be Careful How You FIght Back

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Antibiotics are not always the answer. Most illnesses, like colds and the flu, are caused by viruses. Unfortunately, antibiotics are not effective against viruses. With this in mind, don’t rush to your doctor the next time you get the sniffles. Chances are your illness is viral and will resolve itself on its own within 10-14 days. Remember, antibiotics are strong medications. Use them only when necessary. This helps them to be fully effective when you need them to be. For more information, go to www.capitalhealth.com and search "antibiotics."

Antibiotics: Do I Really Need One?

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

True or false: Green mucus is indicative of a bacterial infection that requires an antibiotic.

FALSE. Green mucus does not mean that an infection is bacterial, as this can also occur with a viral infection. Since antibiotics do not work on viral infections, green mucus does not necessarily mean that you need an antibiotic.

True or false: If a cold lasts longer than a week, an antibiotic is typically needed.

FALSE. Research shows that cold symptoms often last longer than one week.

True or false: Antibiotics may not help you get better, but they can’t hurt.

FALSE. The misuse of antibiotics not only contributes to antibiotic resistance (making these drugs less effective when you truly need them), but it can also lead to serious side effects.

Cold and flu season is upon us, and many patients will mistakenly head to their doctor for an unnecessary antibiotic. Before you head to the doctor hoping to leave with an antibiotic in hand, consider the information below to help ensure safe and appropriate antibiotic use.

Who do antibiotics help? Antibiotics only kill bacteria—they do NOT kill viruses. Since most illnesses (for example, the common cold, most coughs/bronchitis, the flu, and most sore throats) are caused by viruses, antibiotics may not get rid of the infection or make you feel better any faster. In fact, there’s only a 1 in 4,000 chance that an antibiotic will help most acute upper respiratory infections.

What are the risks associated with antibiotics? Antibiotics, like other drugs, have side effects that can range from being a nuisance to being more serious. For example, did you know that 1 in 4 patients taking an antibiotic will experience diarrhea, 1 in 50 patients will experience a skin reaction, and 1 in 1,000 patients will end up in the emergency room? In addition, inappropriate antibiotic use promotes more resistant infections which may make these agents less likely to work when you truly need them.

How do I know when to call my doctor? Some symptoms that require contacting your physician are fever over 100.5º, shortness of breath, skin rash, and an extremely sore or red throat with white or yellow patches. However, when in doubt, call your doctor to see if an antibiotic is needed, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t receive a prescription. By avoiding an unnecessary antibiotic, you’ll be doing your part to ensure antibiotics remain effective when you truly need them to work.

 

Source: Antibiotic overuse. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter 2008: 24(10):241006.

Antibiotics: Myth vs. Fact

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

It starts with a runny nose and then turns into a sore throat. Before you know it, you’re sneezing and coughing all over the place. Think you need to visit your doctor for an antibiotic? You may be surprised to hear that the answer is usually “no.”

How do you know if you need an antibiotic? Check out our list below. We reveal the facts behind the myths and help you decide when to visit the doctor and how to use antibiotics appropriately.

Myth #1: Antibiotics work against the common cold and flu.

Fact: Most illnesses (for example, the common cold, most coughs/bronchitis, the flu, and most sore throats) are caused by viruses, and antibiotics do not kill viruses. They only kill bacteria. If you have a viral infection, taking an antibiotic will not get rid of the infection or make you feel better any faster.

Myth #2: A runny nose that is green or yellow in color means the infection is bacterial and an antibiotic is needed.

Fact: Yellow or green mucous does not mean that the infection is bacterial; this can also occur with a viral infection. Therefore, the need for antibiotics cannot be determined strictly by the color of your nasal discharge.

Myth #3: Taking an antibiotic is harmless; therefore it can’t hurt to take one “just in case.”

Fact: Taking any medication can lead to unwanted side effects and the risk of drug interactions or allergic reactions. In addition, the overuse of antibiotics enables bacteria to adapt and overcome the medicine’s effect. The antibiotic won’t work as well when you truly do need it. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to problems such as methicillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA).

Myth #4: If an antibiotic is needed, I can stop taking it once I feel better.

Fact: Although you feel better, bacteria still may be present. Take the full course. Otherwise, the infection may come back. Stopping an antibiotic too early also can lead to resistant bacteria.

Myth #5: When I start feeling sick, I can use some of the antibiotic that I never finished from my last prescription.

Fact: See Myth #4 —Have no leftovers! Equally important to know is that an antibiotic targets specific bacteria. Even if your new infection is caused by bacteria, the left-over antibiotic may not treat it.

When in doubt, call your doctor to see if an antibiotic is needed, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t receive a prescription. By avoiding an unnecessary antibiotic, you’ll be doing your part to ensure that antibiotics remain effective when you really need them to work for you.