Cold and seasonal flu for many Canadians means getting ready to throw out their lives and routines with painful and boring symptoms. This can mean a working day or a school that deals with throat pain, congestion of the rhinoceros and fever. For parents, it may be challenging to try to help young children with fever, coughing or ear pain.
As doctors, we know that both doctors and patients would like a magic bullet to deal with these symptoms. Patients want to return their lives to normal as soon as possible. Unfortunately, antibiotics are usually not the answer.
Antibiotics are often abused because people mistakenly believe that they will treat symptoms of colds and flushes. In fact, fever, coughing and pain in the introduction usually comes to the virus – and viruses are not affected by antibiotics.
It is estimated that more than half of all antibiotic recipes in Canada are unnecessary – and ineffective.
Common conditions that are usually viral by nature, but often prescribed by antibiotics, include unnecessarily sinus infections, ear infections and colds in the chest (or bronchitis). Antibiotics do not usually help in any of these conditions, and symptoms will improve with simple rest and time.
It is difficult for doctors to be unable to offer medication, and sometimes difficult for our patients, to accept that there is not much to be done other than managing their symptoms and waiting.
What harm can it do with an unnecessary antibiotic? A lot.
When trying to treat symptoms that are caused by viral infections, antibiotics do not help and can actually make patients burn. Antibiotics work by stopping bacteria that cause disease from growth and the crowd. When diseases are viral in origin, not bacterial, antibiotics have no effect.
The use of antibiotics when not needed also promotes the growth of bacteria that are resistant to the most commonly used antibiotics. This makes patients, especially elderly, more vulnerable to antibiotic-resistant infections, and understands what antibiotics can do for us and others when they are really needed.
There are also undesirable effects of taking antibiotics; About one in four people taking antibiotics experience stomach disorder, dizziness or skin rash.