Elizabeth Coyne, NP | Tower Health Urgent Care – Villanova
I’m Sick and My Health Care Professional Won’t Give Me an Antibiotic – Why?
Not all cold or flu symptoms – such as sinus congestion, sore throat, fever, or ear pain – need antibiotics. Most of the time, our bodies will naturally resolve the symptoms. Viruses can make you feel miserable for 10 to 14 days, but your body is able to take care of most viruses without antibiotics.
Let’s Examine This Issue Further.
For years, the healthcare profession has been prescribing antibiotics for runny noses, fevers, and coughs usually within 3 to 5 days of the onset of the symptoms. Patients started to feel better within a day or two; however, we have since learned that symptoms will typically improve around the same time-frame naturally. Your body takes care of the virus on its own without the use of antibiotics.
Why Not Prescribe Antibiotics to Make Symptoms Go Away Faster?
Antibiotics were a great discovery in healthcare for the treatment of pneumonia, strep throat, certain sexually transmitted diseases, and many other infections. However, antibiotics do have multiple side effects that can cause additional problems, such as allergies, severe rash, or C. difficile. The frequent use of antibiotics has also caused a resistance to the medication, affecting the ability for antibiotics to work when needed. The World Health Organization states that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development. The resistance can occur naturally, but the misuse of antibiotics has accelerated the issue of first-line medications no longer working effectively to combat minor infections, requiring stronger antibiotics and treatment. This resistance can occur at any age and in any country.
Common Viral Illnesses
- Fever, yellow sinus drainage with facial pain that usually lasts for 3 to 4 days
- Lasts for greater that 10 days without symptom improvement
- Symptoms start to improve but then get worse with fevers, return or worsening of cough, nasal discharge
- May consider antibiotic
- Runny nose, nasal congestion
- Headache, body aches
- Sore throat
- Over-the-counter medication
Acute Sore Throat (Pharyngitis)
- Pain or irritation in throat that worsens when swallowing
- Fever, no cough
- White spots on the tonsils
- Tender neck lymph nodes
- Treat with over-the-counter medication and test for strep throat; only use antibiotics if the strep testing comes back positive
- Cough, sometimes severe
- Heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute
- Respiration rate greater than 24 breaths per minute
- Temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
- Color of mucus does not matter
- Over-the-counter medication for cough
What Can We Do to Prevent Antibiotic Resistance?
The easiest way to help prevent antibiotic resistance is by both preventing antibiotic misuse and reducing the need to use antibiotics. Follow these tips during cold and flu season – as well as all year long – to help stay healthy.
- Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a healthcare professional
- Always follow the directions when taking medication
- Never share medication or use leftover antibiotics from a prior prescription
- Keep vaccinations up to date
- Prevent infection by: hand-washing, preparing food safely, avoiding contact with sick people, practicing safe sex
- Get your flu shot in early fall, though getting your vaccination later can still be beneficial
CDC Antibiotic Use in the United States 2018 Update. 1-20
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