By Dr. J. Wallhoff
Fall and winter have arrived and bring with them cozy indoor activities and holiday celebrations. Regrettably, this season also brings many viral illnesses such as the common cold, RSV, and influenza. Winter illnesses can make people feel quite ill, and they often go see their doctor for help. If you have recently been to your doctor with cold or flu symptoms, you may have noticed that doctors are prescribing fewer antibiotics than in the past. There are my good reasons for this.
Many people are aware of the benefits of antibiotics but not as familiar with the risks of antibiotics. Antibiotics are powerful medicines for treating bacterial infections. Unfortunately, despite their benefits, they can cause serious, even life threatening reactions and side effects. Medical providers are attempting to be better stewards of antibiotic use as a result of these complications. The goal is to only prescribe antibiotics to patients who need them and not to patients that do not need them.
Most of the winter illnesses are caused by viruses and treatment with antibiotics will not help. Occasionally, a viral illness can transition into a bacterial infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics. Medical providers now have better guidelines and quicker tests to help them decide when antibiotics are needed.
You can help medical providers be good stewards of antibiotics in multiple ways! Prevention is the best medicine. Stay healthy this season by getting the Flu Shot and washing your hands. If you get sick, use good hygiene to prevent the spread of your illness. Stay at home if you can, cover your cough, and wash your hands. With time and rest, your immune system will fight off a viral illness the majority of the time. If you are not getting better and do need to see your doctor, do not ask for antibiotics. Your doctor will prescribe them if they are needed. When you are prescribed antibiotics, always take them as directed. Anytime you take antibiotics, it is a good idea to add a probiotic like yogurt or kefir. Probiotics replenish good bacteria in your system and help to prevent some of the common complications that accompany the use of antibiotics. Probiotics can also be prescribed in pill form by your doctor.
Enjoy the season and stay healthy!
Disclaimer: This column is not intended as a diagnosis or recommended treatment of a specific condition. Answers are not a replacement for an individual medical evaluation. Individual health concerns should be evaluated by a licensed clinician.