In the scramble to prevent and treat seasonal maladies, such as the flu and common cold, taking or prescribing antibiotics should be considered with caution.
Antibiotics are medications used to treat certain bacterial infections, such as bacterial pneumonia and strep throat. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30% of antibiotics prescribed in the outpatient setting are unnecessary.
Ingrid K. Blomquist, MD, an infectious disease physician at Loma Linda University Health, supports the CDC's dos and don’ts of antibiotics, and says there are five key points to remember:
- Using antibiotics wisely is the best way to preserve their potency for future bacterial infections. The unnecessary use of antibiotics lessens their effectiveness. It’s important to prescribe and use them responsibly to ensure future generations’ access to antibiotics.
- Antibiotics only treat certain bacterial infections. Colds and flus are caused by viruses, so antibiotics won’t help. Not all cases of ear infection and sore throat require antibiotics — and the color of mucus is not an indicator. Speak with your physician, who may be able to run tests to make a proper diagnosis.
- To help relieve a viral infection such as a cold or the flu, target symptom relief while the illness naturally runs its course, and always speak with a doctor or pharmacist for medical advice.
- Antibiotics, like all medications, may create side effects. Complications from antibiotics can range from diarrhea to a serious allergic reaction. One in five medication-related visits to an emergency department are due to adverse antibiotic reactions.
- Protect yourself and others through prevention techniques to reduce the spread of colds and influenza. This can simply be done by washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes. Get the flu shot every year and stay at home when sick.
To learn more, turn to reliable sources like the CDC’s Be Antibiotics Aware website.