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Do Antibiotics Always Help?

Antibiotics are powerful medicines prescribed by doctors to help treat certain medical conditions. Though there are many instances when antibiotics are necessary, it’s important not to overuse antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. In cases of antibiotic resistance, the bacteria that your body is trying to fight has built up a tolerance to the antibiotic. The prescribed antibiotic will be no match for the illness it is trying to cure.
There can be lots of confusion as to what conditions antibiotics can treat, and which ones they can’t. Let us clear up the confusion by breaking it down for you: Antibiotics are often used to treat bacterial infections. They cannot be used to treat viral infections such as the common cold. The virus cannot be killed by antibiotics, so it’s best to stay away from them. Let’s look at some other options that can help when you are feeling under the weather.

1. The common cold, sore throat, or cough- Because all of these are viral, antibiotics will not be necessary. Good self-care will be the key to getting better quickly. Plenty of rest and fluids are one of the best treatments for the common cold. Use of cough drops and pain relievers may help to make you feel more comfortable and control your symptoms. Gargling with warm salt water can help relieve a sore throat. Good old-fashioned chicken soup can often help combat your symptoms. The combination of virus fighting veggies and chicken broth can work wonders. In most cases, the cold will run its course in a week or two.
2. Bronchitis- It is often best to see a doctor if you suspect you may have bronchitis. This viral condition is common during the winter months and often happens following a cold or other minor illness. Your bronchial tubes carry oxygen to your lungs. When these become inflamed, you may experience a hacking cough or even wheezing. It may be hard to catch your breath. Your doctor may be able to diagnose bronchitis through a physical exam alone, or he may order a chest x-ray. If the diagnosis is bronchitis, rest and fluids will once again be your best bets. Once your cough is no longer producing mucus, or what is referred to as a “productive cough”, it’s acceptable to use a cough suppressant. Humidifiers and hot steamy baths can also go a long way to help clear up the inflammation. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a bronchodilator to help open your airways.
3. Ear infections- Ear infections can be a tricky thing. Whether or not an ear infection requires an antibiotic depends on the source of the infection. Ear infections can be the result of a recent cold, sinus infection, or allergies. Some are bacterial and may require an antibiotic to clear it up. However, many ear infections have a viral source and will clear up without antibiotics. With that said, ear infections can be painful. If an ear infection is still causing pain and swelling after three days, it’s probably time to go see a doctor. After diagnosing an ear infection and determining the cause, a doctor can determine a course of treatment. This may involve prescription eardrops to help with pain and in some cases an antibiotic. A warm compress applied directly to that ear can be a great way to relieve some of the pain. That, along with a combination of antihistamines or decongestants can relieve some of the symptoms. Use over-the-counter pain medication as needed. Anytime there is a pus, discharge, or blood coming from the ear canal you need to see a physician immediately. This can be a sign of a ruptured eardrum or a more serious underlying health condition.
4. Sinus infections- As with ear infections, sinus infections can be either viral or bacterial. In most cases, whether an antibiotic is needed will also depend on the severity of the symptoms. Even if it is bacterial, most people will be able to fight off a mild sinus infection without the use of antibiotics. However, with a more severe sinus infection a prescription antibiotic may be needed. If your sinus infection has lasted more than 10 days or if there is thick yellow or greenish discharge, it may be time to consult a doctor. There are things you can do when you first feel a sinus infection coming on to prevent it from getting worse. Nasal sinus sprays can work wonders in the beginning of a sinus infection to help reduce swelling in the nasal passages. Nasal decongestants can also be helpful. Limit your use of decongestions to three days because overuse could make symptoms worse. A warm compress over the nose and eyes can be very soothing. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol. Staying hydrated will help thin the mucus out and also promote necessary drainage. Many people find the use of a Netti pot or other type of nasal cleansing equipment helpful. Be sure to use sterile saline solution for any type of rinse you plan to use. Your local pharmacy should have several over the counter options available.
5. The flu- The much-dreaded flu is something we all think about during those long winter months. Prevention is key, so getting your flu shot early is a wise choice. But if you do contract the flu, an antibiotic will not help you. Practice good self-care get plenty of rest and use over-the-counter pain meds as needed. If necessary, see your doctor for medication that can lessen the duration of your illness. They can also lesson symptoms and prevent complications from the flu. Tamiflu and Relenza are two that are frequently prescribed by doctors. Most of these antiviral drugs are most effective within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

As always if you feel you need immediate medical attention, Prime Urgent Care in Pearland, Texas is always there for you!

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