When you feel sick with a cough, sore throat or fever, you want to feel better fast. We almost always expect the doctor to give us an antibiotic. But maybe an antibiotic is not what you need.
Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.
During Get Smart about Antibiotics Week (November 14-20, 2016), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raise awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and use.
Why is this important?
Overuse of antibiotics has resulted in some bacteria that are difficult to treat with the antibiotics that we have (multidrug-resistant organisms or MDRO). There are not many new antibiotics on the way. It is scary to think of the day when no antibiotic will work for common infections.
Antibiotics also increase the risk of infection by the bacteria Clostridium difficile, commonly called C-diff. C-diff can cause severe diarrhea that is potentially life threatening. Recovering from C-diff infections is sometimes difficult and many people get C-diff multiple times.
Get Smart about Antibiotics
- Don’t take an antibiotic for viral infections like a cold or influenza. Antibiotics do not cure viral infections. Learn more about when antibiotics are and are not needed for seven common illnesses >>
- Ask your healthcare provider what you can do to feel better without using antibiotics. Learn about some ways to feel better without an antibiotic >>
- Don’t pressure or demand that your healthcare provider give you an antibiotic. They are trying to do what’s in your best interest.
- If you do need to take an antibiotic, take it exactly as per the instructions. Don’t skip doses or stop taking the antibiotic if you feel better, unless your healthcare provider tells you to.
- Never save antibiotics for the next time you are sick, and do not take someone else’s antibiotic. Dispose of any unused medications at an upcoming Medication Take Back Day at Altru.
While antibiotics cannot cure infections caused by viruses, there are still a number of things you or your child can do to treat some symptoms and feel better while a viral illness runs its course. Over-the-counter medicines may also help relieve some symptoms. In general, follow this good old-fashioned advice (tips adopted from the CDC):
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vapor.
- Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain or fever.
- Use a decongestant or saline nasal spray to help relieve nasal symptoms.
- For a sore throat, gargle with salt water and drink warm beverages.
- Avoid smoking, secondhand smoke, and other pollutants.
Antibiotic stewardship, or responsibly administering medications only when evidence supports their use, is an important part of medical practice. Everyone wants to feel better quickly when they are sick. We have to be sure that any medications prescribed don’t do more harm than good.
Joel Walz, MD, is a family medicine physician treating chronic health problems and acute injuries and illness. Dr. Walz is the Public Health Officer for Grand Forks and serves on the Grand Forks Public Health Board engaging in community health issues. He is inspired by improving the quality of life in the patients he sees. In his free time he enjoys bicycling, hiking, snowboarding, salt water reef aquariums and traveling. He is an active member at United Lutheran Church and a confirmation guide.
Lori Sondrol, MD, is a pediatrician at Altru Health System. Board certified in pediatrics, she sees patients from one day old to 21 years of age. In addition to seeing children for well child care/sports physicals/ acute care visits, she enjoys managing chronic illness in children such as diabetes and asthma. Outside of the hospital, she is often with her husband and two daughters. They like to travel and spend time outdoors. They are often watching sporting events or participating in them.