It’s cold and flu season which means it’s the time of year you probably stock your medicine cabinets with decongestants, cough suppressants, expectorants, and pain relievers. If you do come down with one of these viruses, the discomfort, and sometimes misery, usually only lasts a week or so and the medicine can treat the symptoms while the virus runs its course. Though it may be tempting to ask for an antibiotic in hopes of feeling better faster, they do not treat viruses. Antibiotics do save lives when you have a bacterial infection, but they are not needed for the cold or flu, nor many sinus infections and even some ear infections.
If you take antibiotics when they aren’t needed, they won’t help you. In fact, they can even lose their effectiveness when you actually need to take them for a bacterial infection. Antibiotic resistance occurs when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs that are meant to kill them. Your risk of developing sepsis is increased once antibiotics lose their effectiveness.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health. Each year, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the United States, and more than 35,000 people die as a result. Antibiotic resistance means the bacteria that live in your body develop the ability to defeat the antibiotics designed to kill them. If your doctor does need to prescribe you an antibiotic, be sure to take them exactly as prescribed. Meaning, if directed to take twice per day for 10 days, you should do just that. Though you might start feeling better after a few days, always finish your medication as prescribed.
Common side effects while taking an antibiotic can include rash, dizziness, nausea, and yeast infections. If you do develop side effects, especially severe diarrhea, talk to your doctor as this could indicate a Clostridioides difficile infection which should be immediately treated.
Seek medical attention if you have a temperature of 100.4 °F or higher that lasts longer than four days, cough with bloody mucus, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, symptoms that last more than ten days with no relief, dehydration, symptoms that improve but then get worse, fluid coming from the ear, symptoms of a middle ear infection that last more than a few days, or hearing loss.
If you have flu symptoms and are in a high-risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your doctor. High-risk groups include young children, children with neurologic conditions, pregnant women, and adults 65 years and older. Other risk groups include people with conditions including asthma, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or cancer. At Village Pharmacy we have a test that will determine if you have flu or Covid-19. Please call us or visit our website for an appointment.
Try to avoid getting sick this season by washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer is a good alternative when soap and water are not available – just make sure the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol. Other wellness tips include covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your elbow, staying home and getting plenty of rest when you are sick, and getting the flu vaccine.