As cold and flu season gets underway, many begin to suffer from runny noses, fevers, aches, pains, sore throats and coughs that come around this time of year. If you’ve ever wondered if you or your family member needs an antibiotic, we’ve got some tips to help. The overuse of antibiotics is a serious issue as more illnesses become resistant to treatment. Amra Nasir, MD, Medical Director for Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care, cautions that “it’s imperative that we use antibiotics only when a patient needs them.” Here’s what you need to know about antibiotics and if you need one when you’re not feeling well.
How Do I Know if I Need an Antibiotic?
The first thing to remember about antibiotics is that they “don’t work on viruses like the cold or flu, but rather bacterial infections,” explains Dr. Nasir. Even then, there are some bacterial infections that antibiotics won’t treat like bronchitis, some sinus infections and various ear infections. Antibiotics will help treat some common bacterial infections such as:
- Strep throat
- Whooping cough
- Urinary tract infection
- Select sinus infections
- Some middle ear infections
Dr. Nasir adds, “it can be hard to go to the doctor, not feel well and have the doctor say that there really isn’t anything to do except let the virus run its course. It really is the best thing to do to prevent antibiotic resistance.” This occurs when bacteria when become resistant to the drugs that are used to kill them. This is especially harmful when there are only a select number of antibiotics to prescribe for certain bacterial infections.
If I do Have a Virus, What’s the Best Way to Treat it?
There are other medications and home remedies that can help you feel better. “Sometimes the simplest remedies will help such as getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated,” says Dr. Nasir. Other remedies that can help you fight off the virus are:
- Running a cool mist humidifier will keep your nasal passages moist and help with congestion
- Drinking hot liquids like tea and broth will help to break up mucus
- Applying warm compresses
- Taking an over-the-counter pain medication
- Using saline nasal sprays to help relieve stuffiness
- Gargling saltwater, eating ice chips, lozenges or hard candy to relieve a sore throat
Symptoms caused by common viruses like the cold or flu will start to improve after three to five days. Dr. Nasir advises that if you don’t start to feel better after a few days, visit your doctor or urgent care center, because some viruses could develop into something worse.
Antibiotic Usage Checklist
If you are prescribed an antibiotic, remember these tips:
- Only take antibiotics when needed
- Take the antibiotic as prescribed
- Don’t save, share or use leftover antibiotics
- Be aware of possible side effects such as, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, drug interactions, yeast infections and antibiotic resistance
- Know the medications you are allergic to