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3 Main Reasons you don’t Need Antibiotics for a Cold

With the cold and flu season upon us, everyone is trying to figure out how to avoid getting sick. I often educate patients about why antibiotics aren’t warranted for the common cold, and here are 3 main reasons why:

Colds are caused by viruses

The common cold is usually caused by the rhinovirus. Unfortunately there are no approved pharmaceutical agents that combat this particular virus, mostly because the virus is constantly changing. Strep throat, many cases of sinusitis, and ear infections often have similar symptoms to the common cold, but are caused by bacteria, which can be treated with antibiotics. A thorough assessment by a healthcare provider can help determine the cause and appropriate treatment of your symptoms.

“…simple measures such as rest and fluids give the body the ammunition it needs to combat the cold virus.”

Antibiotics have side effects

Antibiotics are not harmless. Each antibiotic, like most drugs, has a multitude of side effects. Antibiotics destroy the good bacteria in our guts, which we need for balanced gastrointestinal health. These drugs have even been linked to allergies, eczema and even deadly diarrheal illnesses. Many healthcare providers reflexively prescribe antibiotics incorrectly, which adds to the problem. The increased use of antibiotics has bred resistant strains of bacteria leading to an epidemic of bacterial infections which can no longer be treated by current antibiotics.

The best cold remedy is…

In general, the best cure for any disease is prevention. In addition to practicing good hygiene, a healthy immune system is necessary to fight off a viral infection. Adequate sleep, a balanced diet, exercise and routine stress management boost the immune system, as well as overall well-being. Over the counter remedies target cold symptoms such as cough and congestion. However, simple measures such as rest and fluids give the body the ammunition it needs to combat the cold virus.

“Illness is one of the body’s way of letting us know that we would benefit from taking better care of ourselves.”

So you may be thinking, “Dr. Aunna, I always feel better when I take antibiotics.” If you truly have the cold virus, chances are you are starting to feel better from the natural course of the illness rather than the antibiotics. It’s also possible that you believe you are going to feel better, and thus you do. The placebo effect is extremely powerful. On the other hand, it’s possible to have a viral infection that can eventually progress to a bacterial illness. Over time a healthcare provider will be able to determine whether or not this is this case.

Regardless of the cause, illness is one of the body’s way of letting us know that we would benefit from taking better care of ourselves. Instead of stressing out about being sick and thinking you need antibiotics, take the time to rest and treat your body with the respect it deserves. Make your health a priority.

Read more about 10 Natural Ways to Prevent Colds and the Flu.

Thinking of your New Year’s Resolutions? Get started with some ideas from Dr. Aunna’s advice for All Year’s Resolutions.

6 Holistic Ways to Prevent the Flu

The Influenza Virus

With the flu season around the corner, many of us are trying to figure out how to stay healthy and “flu-free.” The flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Common symptoms include:

– Fever
– Fatigue
– Headaches
– Runny nose
– Congestion
– Sore throat
– Vomiting
– Diarrhea
– Body aches

Source: cdc.gov

Source: cdc.gov

Cold vs Flu

It’s important to note that the flu is different from the common cold. Both illnesses are caused by different viruses and the flu usually comes on suddenly with more severe symptoms. The flu is also more likely to cause complications such as pneumonia, ear infections and sinus infections.

Flu Prevention

Most people think that the influenza vaccine is all they need, but according to the CDC, the influenza vaccine is only 60% effective. Here are some additional ways to help you prevent the flu (and the common cold):

1. Build a healthy immune system

The most effective way to prevent the flu, and many other diseases, is with a healthy immune system. Our immune system has special cells and molecules that recognize and fight pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria. While everyone is susceptible to the flu, those with weaker immune systems are at a higher risk of developing complications from the flu. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with other medical conditions such as heart failure are at risk. A healthy balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and stress management are simple, yet incredibly effective ways to boost the immune system and prevent many other diseases!

2. Cover your mouth

The influenza virus is transmitted through air droplets, so there is some merit to covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, especially if you have symptoms.

Sneeze in progress. Source: cdc.gov

Sneeze in progress. Source: cdc.gov

3. Wash your hands

While the influenza virus is transmitted by air droplets, you can still spread the virus with your hands. Since flu symptoms may not appear for up to one day after being infected, it’s that much more important to wash your hands frequently. Avoid touching your face since the nasal passages are the main entry for the influenza virus.

4. Disinfect your home

This goes along with tip #3. Disinfect commonly touched places in your home, such as doorknobs and light switches.

5. Avoid contact with sick people

The influenza virus is contagious so make sure to limit your exposure to those who are infected. If you happen to be sick as well, stay home and get some rest!

6. Take vitamin D

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation in children decreased the risk of contracting the flu. Homeopathic remedies such as probiotics, vitamin C and oscillococcinum may help, but studies have not yet shown definitive evidence for their use in preventing the flu.

Take advantage of what Mother Nature has blessed you with

Despite your best efforts to prevent the flu, it’s still possible that you may come in contact with the virus. A healthy immune system, however, can stop the virus before it can spread throughout the body.  The influenza vaccine is just another way to help build our immune system’s resources, but won’t be effective if our innate healing mechanisms aren’t functioning properly.

Make sure to maintain a healthy lifestyle all year round and discuss the best flu prevention options for you and your family with your healthcare provider.

Share your flu prevention methods in the comments below!

Del-Immune Flu Prevention Expert Check out How to Prevent the Flu: Tips from 30 Health and Flu Prevention Experts on the Best Way to Avoid Getting Sick with the Flu this Winter