With winter coming infections of colds, coughs and sore throats start to rise, but should you be taking antibiotics to get rid of them?
There is growing concern over the resistance of some bacteria to current antibiotics. This means that the bacteria can no longer be killed by the antibiotics usually used to treat the conditions the bacteria cause. Increasing resistance is thought to be partly caused by excessive usage of the antibiotics.
The concern is that some bacteria are now becoming resistant to a number of antibiotics and whilst currently there are sufficient types of antibiotics to provide alternatives there is a danger that bacteria could become resistant to all current antibiotics. The number of new antibiotics being discovered has decreased in the past few years and we cannot be sure that we will always be able to find new ones.
It is not currently possible to prevent bacteria from becoming resistant to antibiotics, but it is possible to slow down the rate at which resistance develops. This can be done by using antibiotics carefully and responsibly.
Antibiotics are not necessary for many minor infections, under normal circumstance the body can fight these infections on its own using its own immune system and using antibiotics has no benefit, they won’t speed things up.
Antibiotics have no effect on viral infections. Sore throats and coughs are mostly viral and all colds and ‘flu are viral – there is no benefit in treating these with antibiotics and Doctors should not prescribe antibiotics for these viral conditions. There are a number of remedies to help ease the symptoms of these viral conditions which are available to purchase through Pharmacies.
If a cough last for more than 3 weeks or if there are additional symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pains then a Doctor should always be consulted as it is unlikely this is a simple viral cough.
It should also be remembered that children tend to get coughs and colds more frequently than adults, especially when they are starting to mix with other people in nurseries, crèches and schools. If a child has a cough or cold and it is causing concern try speaking to a pharmacist first. If it is considered necessary to see a Doctor, do not necessarily expect antibiotics to be prescribed. As is the case for adults antibiotics will not help a child if the infection is viral.
If antibiotics are prescribed for a bacterial infection it is very important that the course is taken as prescribed at the correct intervals and that the course is finished even if the symptoms seem to be gone. Not only does this increase the likely effectiveness of the antibiotics but it also significantly reduces the likelihood of resistance.
By Julian Wyatt MRPharmS
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.