Monday, December 14, 2015

As flu season heats up it's a good time to inform readers that antibiotics have little effect on viruses

Winter means an increase in reports of flu and colds and other ailments that send people scurrying to the doctor or the pharmacist in search of remedies. But it's also a good time to remind—or educate— readers that antibiotics do little to combat viruses.

"While antibiotics have their uses, as much as half the time they are inappropriately prescribed, said Dr. Glenn Ridenour, an infectious diseases physician at Charleston Area Medical Center," Lori Kersey reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. "Antibiotics have no effect on viruses like colds, flus and bronchitis, but often, Ridenour said, people will ask physicians to prescribe them when they have sore throats, sneezing and other symptoms. Patients who take the antibiotics feel better within a week, but they would actually feel better in that amount of time even if they had no medication, Ridenour said." (Gazette-Mail graphic)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says antibiotics should be used to treat bacterial infections, like whooping cough, strep throat and urinary tract infections, Kersey writes. "There are very few antibiotics that work on viruses, Ridenour said. Instead of antibiotics, people should treat their symptoms by staying hydrated, taking cough suppressants and decongestants, and waiting, he said." He said physicians often prescribe antibiotics for viruses because it's easier than trying to explain to them that they don't need it. He said antibiotics won’t hurt a person in the short term but over time can make germs resistant to the antibiotics.

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