For example, antibiotics don’t work against colds, flu, and viral infections such as bronchitis, but are sometimes prescribed anyway.
Sore throats are often prescribed antibiotics, but according to updated (voluntary) guidelines released by the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) this week, a sore throat is likely to be a virus, not strep throat.
Overusing antibiotics for viruses or conditions in which they’re not required can lead to antibiotic resistance, which means that these powerful drugs become less effective at fighting the bacteria they’re actually intended to treat. In fact, infectious organisms adapt to the antibiotics, developing new strains of bacteria that are immune to it.
In the example of strep throat, the revised IDSA guidelines recommend penicillin or amoxicillin for treatment, since strep is becoming resistant to broader-spectrum (and pricier) antibiotics which were commonly prescribed in the past, including azithromycin and other macrolides.
A scarier drug-resistant bacteria is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, also known as staph infection. There is a clear association between antibiotics and MRSA, a 2007 review of 76 studies with close to 25,000 patients showed. MRSA often causes mild skin infections, but it can also be more serious and even life threatening. The infection is hard to treat, and can even infect the lungs, bloodstream heart valve, bones, joints, or lungs.
The overuse of antibiotics can also make one susceptible to Clostridium dificile, which can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramping and pain, and other unpleasant symptoms. The infection can even cause colitis.
What To Do
Do not pressure your doctor to prescribe antibiotics for viruses, including colds, flus, most coughs, bronchitis, and sore throats not caused by strep. If you are prescribed antibiotics, make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle carefully, and to complete the entire bottle as prescribed even if you feel better better earlier on.
Check with your doctor to see what the common side effects for the antibiotics he or she wants to prescribe, and if there are any alternatives. Contact your doctor immediately if you are suffering from any unusual symptoms.