Medicine’s Cure-All Debunked: Avoiding Antibiotics To Fight Flu Symptoms Just May Save Your Life

Sep 13, 2016

The lowdown? Yes, do not take antibiotics to fight your flu symptoms. Even though that flaming sore throat, and hacking cough you’ve had for two weeks is not getting better you should not take antibiotics if you don’t need them. According to the many medical experts, taking antibiotics when you have the flu may do your health much more harm than good.

Just why is this? Antibiotics are medications that fight infections caused by bacteria, but the flu is caused by a virus. So when you take antibiotics when they are not 100% needed, you are actually increasing your risk of getting a greater infection later, that may actually resist antibiotic treatment when it’s most needed.

In a New York Times post, Aaron E. Carroll, professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, said that “a century ago, the top three causes of death were infectious diseases. More than half of all people dying in the United States died because of germs.

Today, they account for a few percent of deaths at most. We owe much of that, of course, to antibiotics. It is hard to overstate how much less of a threat infectious diseases pose to us today. But we take antibiotics for granted. We use them inappropriately and indiscriminately. This has led many to worry that our days of receiving benefits from them are numbered.”

In today’s fast-paced world of economic pressures, when most people get sick, they can’t afford to stay in bed for two to three weeks. Instead they seek a “quick fix” like antibiotics to cure them quickly. It’s precisely this modus operandi that has fueled this resistance crisis worldwide.

According to a Center for Disease Control study, more than two-thirds of the 150 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year for patients outside of hospitals are unnecessary. Why is this happening? These days, doctors feel pressured to prescribe antibiotics even when they know they won’t help against viral infections because they’re pressured by their patients.

“There are two problems with prescribing antibiotics that aren’t necessary,” explained Dr. Rob Hicks, GP and spokesperson for a new health campaign in the U.K. aimed at cutting down on antibiotic usage called Treat Yourself Better, in an interview with the Mirror. “The first is the increasing global problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria making it harder to treat some infections.” Secondly, if medicines are given to individuals who don’t need them, the risk of side effects is far greater than any potential benefits.”

So should you avoid antibiotics altogether? No, because antibiotics still save many lives, and if your doctors tell you that your particular illness requires them, then you should begin taking them as soon as possible. Remember that it’s the heavy over-reliance and inappropriate use of antibiotics that have contributed to the global antibiotic resistance crisis that we face..

The best resistance is not getting sick in the first place. Consider taking a flu shot and take care of your immune system by getting a good night’s sleep, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, exercising, and keeping your stress levels down. Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer for Los Angeles County, USC Medical Center told The New York Times that you should wash your hands frequently. And if you get sick, he recommends not using antibiotics. “What you should be doing is saying to the doctor, ‘Do I really need these antibiotics?’ ” said Dr. Spellberg.

He also advises staying away from hospitals since they are incubators of dangerous germs and if you’re worried about eating meat raised with antibiotics, Dr. Spellberg says “there is some evidence that such meat is more likely to have resistant germs, but those are avoidable with proper cooking.”

This winter, instead of opting for an antibiotics that your body doesn’t need, ask your doctor about antivirals for treating your cold or flu. The CDC recommends oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), and zanamivir  (Relenza) for flu. They are most effective when given within 48 hours after symptoms start to appear and do have side effects for some such as nervousness, poor concentration, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Or else opt for lots of liquids, chicken soup, Netflix, patience, and rest.

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