Why Your Doctor May Not Prescribe Antibiotics

We’ve all been there. Despite feeling miserable, you drag yourself out of bed to see the doctor in hopes of getting medication you’re certain will make life better. But instead you’re left empty handed and wondering what happened.

Chances are you had a viral infection, and no antibiotic in the world can help that. And by not prescribing antibiotics, your doctor is actually protecting you from getting even sicker. Confused? John K. Lee, MD, from Memorial Care breaks down what you need to know.

What Are Antibiotics Anyway?

Antibiotics date back to 1928 when a scientist discovered that a chemical agent would kill off bacteria microorganisms. These chemical agents are now widely available as various forms of medications used to kill off or prevent bacterial infections from spreading. Common bacterial infections include strep throat, ear infections and urinary tract infections.

How Come They Won’t Help My Cold?

With cold and flu season in full swing, there is no shortage of runny noses, sore throats or fevers. These symptoms are typically caused by a virus, a microorganism smaller than a bacterium. No antibiotic will kill off the virus or prevent it from spreading. Often the best course of treatment is to alleviate symptoms with over-the-counter medication, lots of fluids and staying indoors.

Can They Really Be Dangerous?

Yes. When you take antibiotics when they’re not needed you run the risk of developing a secondary infection like diarrhea. In some cases, you can even develop Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aurous (MRSA), which is an infection on the skin causing sores or boils, or Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which often causes abdominal pain. By taking unnecessary antibiotics, you could also kill off good bacteria your body needs to stay healthy. And eventually it can lead to antibiotic resistance.

What Does It Mean For Me?

Even if you think your infection may be viral, it’s best to have a doctor evaluate your symptoms.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a viral infection and your symptoms get worse or persist, call your doctor.  It’s possible a secondary bacterial infection developed. Don’t forget the basic ways of preventing infection like frequent hand washing or covering your mouth when you cough. And make sure everyone in your family gets a flu shot. The best way to fight any infection is prevention.

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