Antibiotics don’t work against colds, the flu and other illnesses caused by viruses.
Life can sometime get hectic: you might have a tight deadline at work; maybe you need to help your kids with a school project; or you’re forced to cram your weekly shop in you already too short lunch break. That’s why it can be such a hassle when you notice yourself starting to come down with something.
It can be tempting to throw everything at it so you can beat the cold and get back on track, but antibiotics are not the answer.
Antibiotics are one of the most important tools in medicine and there are many situations in which they are used: from cancer treatment to hip replacements and open heart surgery. But for many of the everyday conditions such as colds and the flu, antibiotics simply do not work.
Antibiotics are used to treat infections that are caused by bacteria. They work in different ways, but what they all have in common is that they only have an effect on bacteria. The common cold and flu are caused by viruses – as are many forms of ear infections, sore throats and coughs – and are totally immune to antibiotics. In fact, you could make things worse as antibiotics can cause side-effects themselves.
If you are feeling ill, the best thing you can do is to talk to your pharmacist about how you can ease your symptoms and, just as importantly, make sure you get plenty of rest.
One of the major concerns of modern medicine is the speed in which bacteria are becoming resistant to our antibiotics. When we overuse or improperly use these drugs, bacteria are more likely to find ways to adapt and become resistant to our drugs.
Once a group of bacteria become drug-resistant, they can spread quickly. The antibiotics kill all their competition so they are free to spread throughout a person’s body, and if there is no alternative antibiotic available, then there is very little doctors can do.
If we want to continue to have antibiotics when they are needed most, we need to use them more wisely. That means stopping their use when they will have no effect like when treating viral infections.
What you should do
- If you are told that you do not need antibiotics, accept that decision and please don’t pressure any healthcare professional to prescribe you antibiotics;
- Your pharmacist can offer advice on how to ease your symptoms and remember to get plenty of rest;
- If you sneeze or cough, use a tissue and throw it away straight away to help stop the spread of germs. Wash your hands regularly to kill any germs present;
- If a medical professional feels you need antibiotics, make sure you take them exactly as prescribed, never save them for later and never share them with someone else.