Just say no to antibiotics for the cold and flu

Consumer Reports News: November 15, 2010 01:52 PM

Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial
infections, not colds and the flu.

Each year doctors prescribe millions of antibiotics for viral conditions, like the flu and the common cold—even though they know that the drugs only work against bacterial infections. Why? Partly because so many of us patients, desperate for a quick cure for sore throats, coughs, and sniffles, often insist on it. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as part of its Get Smart About Antibiotics week (November 15-21), said today that nearly half of all antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary or inappropriate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is educating the public on when you need antibiotics, and perhaps more importantly, when you don’t. The overuse of antibiotics is not only waste time and money, but can also lead to resistant strains of bacteria and hard-to-treat infections.

So before asking for (or accepting) an antibiotic, ask your health-care provider whether you indeed have a bacterial infection. If you do, complete the prescribed course even if you are feeling better—if you stop too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you. That goes for your children, too.

And to further help prevent illness, wash your hands frequently, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when hand washing is not feasible, avoid close contact with people who are sick, cover your mouth with your arm when you cough or sneeze, and get the flu and other recommended vaccines.

Ginger Skinner, Web associate editor

For more information, see our recent flu poll, and find out which therapies work best for treating bronchitis, colds and the flu (available to subscribers).


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