You wake up and you know it instantly – a tickle in your throat, a surprisingly difficult time breathing, maybe a headache – you’re sick. You weigh the options of going to work or calling in sick, try to decide whether to see a doctor. You give it a day, do your normal thing, and you just feel worse. After calling your boss to let her know you won’t be in tomorrow, you head to your Spring Hill walk-in clinic to get some antibio — wait, what? Antibiotics? But your symptoms sound like a bad cold! Should you really be getting antibiotics?
Maybe not. The doctors at our walk-in clinic in Spring Hill say that there are more and more people asking for antibiotics to treat head colds and other viral infections. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. Here’s all you need to know about antibiotics.
What antibiotics are
Antibiotics are a class of drugs that act against bacteria and are used in the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections – think pneumonia (sometimes), strep throat, and a number of sexually transmitted infections. Antibiotics either inhibit the growth of these “bad” bacteria or kill them outright, which enables you to feel better.
What antibiotics aren’t
Antibiotics are not an effective class of drugs against viral infections or fungal infections. That means if you have the flu, Lyme disease, or hepatitis, antibiotics are not going to help you feel better. Viral infections are best avoided by getting vaccinated, which we offer as part of our services – check out flu shot Spring Hill, but serious viruses, like Hepatitis B and HIV can be treated with antiviral medications.
Fungal infections like yeast infections or athlete’s foot also cannot be treated by antibiotics; for these you need antifungal medications, which inhibit the growth of the fungus and restore balance.
The biggest concern about the overuse or misuse of antibiotics – i.e. when they are prescribed to treat viral or fungal infections or when they aren’t used as prescribed – is that they become less effective against the illnesses they’re meant to treat. When antibiotics are used improperly – and this also includes not taking the proper dosage or not finishing a course prescribed by your doctor, the bacteria which they fight against adapt and become stronger. Then, the antibiotic doesn’t work anymore.
A famous example is strep throat. While this illness is awful in its basic form, it has evolved to an even more dangerous version called MRSA – or “methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.” MRSA doesn’t respond to traditional antibiotics for strep and can be fatal. It also happens to be quite contagious, which is why you will hear reports of outbreaks in hospitals and communities.
What you can do
What you can do is simple: Don’t ask for antibiotics if you have a viral infection. You may feel crummy as the virus runs its course, but an antibiotic wouldn’t help you feel better, anyway. If you do have an bacterial infection, take your medicine properly: in the dosage recommended and for the full 7-10 days as prescribed. If you don’t, imagine that little evil bacteria are still floating around your body, figuring out ways to get around the roadblocks you’ve put up against their existence.
Secondly, consider eating less meat. The meat industry is the No. 1 user of antibiotics in a preventive manner. They are fed to livestock, poultry and even fish to help them grow faster in relatively unsanitary conditions. We know that it’s hard to give up meat altogether, but less meat intake will reduce your exposure to unnecessary antibiotics.
Have more questions about antibiotics or want to get a flu shot in Spring Hill? The staff at our Spring Hill walk-in clinic are happy to answer any questions you have about your health. When you come in with symptoms, we don’t automatically prescribe antibiotics; we diagnose the root of the problem first. We are open 7 days a week for your convenience.