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Feel Better without Antibiotics: Why No Medicine is Sometimes the Best Medicine
Health & Wellness

Feel Better without Antibiotics: Why No Medicine is Sometimes the Best Medicine

November 11, 2016

When you feel sick with a cough, sore throat or fever, you want to feel better fast. We almost always expect the doctor to give us an antibiotic. But maybe an antibiotic is not what you need.

Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.

During Get Smart about Antibiotics Week (November 14-20, 2016), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raise awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and use.

Why is this important?

Overuse of antibiotics has resulted in some bacteria that are difficult to treat with the antibiotics that we have (multidrug-resistant organisms or MDRO). There are not many new antibiotics on the way. It is scary to think of the day when no antibiotic will work for common infections.

Antibiotics also increase the risk of infection by the bacteria Clostridium difficile, commonly called C-diff. C-diff can cause severe diarrhea that is potentially life-threatening. Recovering from C-diff infections is sometimes difficult and many people get C-diff multiple times.

Get Smart about Antibiotics

While antibiotics cannot cure infections caused by viruses, there are still a number of things you or your child can do to treat some symptoms and feel better while a viral illness runs its course. Over-the-counter medicines may also help relieve some symptoms. In general, follow this good old-fashioned advice (tips adopted from the CDC):

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vapor.
  • Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen to relieve pain or fever.
  • Use a decongestant or saline nasal spray to help relieve nasal symptoms.
  • For a sore throat, gargle with salt water and drink warm beverages.
  • Avoid smoking, secondhand smoke, and other pollutants.

Antibiotic stewardship, or responsibly administering medications only when evidence supports their use, is an important part of medical practice. Everyone wants to feel better quickly when they are sick. We have to be sure that any medications prescribed don’t do more harm than good.


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