Skip the RX

Skip the RX

Whether their symptoms are a runny nose, fever, or stuffy sinuses, many patients insist on being prescribed an antibiotic because “it’ll cure me faster.”

But that’s not always the case, cautions Michael A. Abgott, MD, Network Chair of Family Medicine and Vice President/Senior Medical Director of St. Luke’s Physician Group.

For starters, antibiotics are not cure-alls. “Antibiotics will kill bacteria and related organisms through very specific mechanisms,” he explains. “But conditions such as colds or the flu are caused by viruses—and antibiotics really have no effect on them.”

And even in cases where antibiotics are warranted, it’s best to proceed carefully. Some drugs are more effective than others against a particular infection, and all antibiotics have some side effects, Dr. Abgott said, including possible nausea, diarrhea, and allergic reactions. The trick is to find the lowest effective dose, with the lowest chance of side effects.

Overusing antibiotics can also lead to so-called “superbugs”: bacteria that have evolved ways to resist various killing mechanisms, including even the most powerful antibiotics. “You really don’t want to get to a point where nothing works against those bacteria,” he adds.

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