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.