With the cold and flu season just around the corner, many of us start making more frequent trips to the pharmacy. While we can easily pick up various over-the-counter medications for symptom relief, there’s one option that is sometimes unnecessarily prescribed for colds or flu: antibiotics.
What Are Antibiotics Used For?
Antibiotics, prescribed by a doctor or in some cases a pharmacist, target bacterial infections. They work by killing the bacteria causing the infection, assisting the body’s immune system in its fight. Their quick effectiveness often makes them seem like a swift solution to feeling better. However, this is a misconception, especially when it comes to most fall and winter illnesses like the common cold, COVID-19, influenza, and RSV, which are caused by viruses. Antibiotics have no effect on these viruses and won’t alter the duration or severity of viral illnesses.
The Issue of Antibiotic Resistance
When you take antibiotics for a viral illness, there are no “bad” bacteria to eliminate. Instead, these drugs may destroy beneficial bacteria and give room for resistant bacteria to grow and multiply. This can lead to the emergence of “superbugs,” which are resistant to antibiotics. If these superbugs proliferate, future bacterial infections may become harder to treat. Alarmingly, a 2019 study in Canada found that about 25% of antibiotic prescriptions were unnecessary, creating numerous opportunities for the development of these superbugs.
How to Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotic Use
Healthcare providers are encouraged to follow specific criteria when prescribing antibiotics. Initiatives like Canada’s Choosing Wisely aim to reduce unnecessary prescriptions. What can you do to avoid taking antibiotics unnecessarily?
- Reduce Your Risk of Getting Sick: Simple habits like proper hand washing and maintaining overall health can significantly decrease your chances of falling ill.
- Manage Symptoms with OTC Medications or Home Remedies: If you have a sore throat, it might just be a common cold. Consult your healthcare professional to confirm the cause, then rely on remedies like hot tea and pain relief medications available at your pharmacy.
- Ask Questions: Instead of requesting antibiotics, have a detailed conversation with your healthcare provider. Discuss the potential causes of your illness and weigh the pros and cons of using antibiotics. It’s important to note that adults aged 60 and older are prescribed antibiotics 1.5 times more often than other age groups, making it crucial for seniors to be particularly cautious.
At SanoMed Pharmacy, we are dedicated to helping you stay healthy and ensuring that medications remain effective for the long term. If you have any questions about your prescription antibiotics, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re here to guide you towards making informed health decisions, particularly during these challenging times.