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May 07, 2019

Why you shouldn’t take antibiotics for a cold or flu

Big concern: overprescription of antibiotics for infections they are not designed to treat

Illness Antibiotics
Pills Medicine 05072019 Image by Ewa Urban/from Pixabay


Our over-reliance on antibiotics to find relief from our stuffy head, achy body, cold and flu symptoms is a major health concern, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 2 million Americans are struck by a “superbug” each year, with almost 23,000 of them dying from the infection.

What are “superbugs”? Dr. James M. Steckelberg of The Mayo Clinic defines them as “strains of bacteria that are resistant to the majority of antibiotics commonly used today.” These drug-resistant bacteria can cause serious skin and urinary tract infections as well as pneumonia, and tuberculosis, and even sepsis.

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While bacteria’s ability to adapt to drugs is a natural part of its evolution, our misuse of antibiotics is speeding up the process.

One of the biggest concerns is the overprescription of antibiotics for infections they are not designed to treat, like the common cold or flu virus. The Cleveland Clinic advises you to describe your symptoms as accurately as possible to your doctor so the most accurate diagnosis can be made. Often the best course of treatment for a viral infection is to give your immune system time to do its job.

Here are some ways to protect yourself from drug-resistant “superbugs”: (Sources: Centers for Disease Control and PreventionThe Mayo ClinicThe Cleveland Clinic and the World Health Organization)

• Don’t insist your doctor prescribe antibiotics for you even when the infection is viral

• Follow the directions on your antibiotics carefully when you do have a bacterial infection

• Never stop taking your antibiotics mid treatment because you are feeling better

• Never share your medicine with others or use an old prescription of antibiotics from the last time you were sick.

Antibiotics are an important tool for fighting infection, but they are not a catch-all solution. And when we use them inappropriately, we put our health at risk. Always be honest with your doctor about your symptoms and any concerns you may have about taking antibiotics.

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