Why antibiotics aren't always the solution

September 15, 2019

Mark L. Friedman, MD, FACEP, FACP

When you feel miserable, it’s understandable to want a quick fix. So, your brain might turn to antibiotics instead of chicken soup and a good night's sleep.

But sometimes, it’s a good thing to let your immune system fight illness itself. This is true for viral infections, such as the common cold (no matter how severe).

When a doctor recognizes your symptoms as viral, steering you away from antibiotics is the right decision for both your short- and long-term health. Here’s why.


They don't work on viruses.

Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections – which means they won’t do a thing for your cold. Another good example is sore throats. Antibiotics can treat strep throat (a bacterial infection) but are not the answer for most sore throats, which are caused by viruses.


They're over-prescribed.

One in three antibiotic prescriptions are not needed.* And they're not only unnecessary, but also possibly dangerous.

Too much exposure to antibiotics gives the bacteria you encounter the ability to work up a resistance to the medication. So, keeping antibiotics out of your body when you don’t need them helps them work better when you do.


You can have a bad reaction to antibiotics.

The last thing you want to deal with is more discomfort on top of your symptoms.

Believe it or not, you can develop an allergy to anything at any time. So, even if you’ve taken a particular antibiotic before without any reactions, it might not go as well the next time. 


When antibiotics are the right call

There are times when antibiotics can help.
Be on the lookout for these signs, and if you see any of these, call First Stop Health.


Watch out for:

  • Symptoms that persist for more than seven days
  • A temperature of more than 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Earache
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Chest pain or other significant symptoms


Prescription options with First Stop Health

FSH doctors can prescribe:

  • Antibiotics when the time is right
  • Antihistamines
  • Maintenance medication refills (on a short-term basis)

This list is not exhaustive, so if you’re not sure if we can help you with a prescription, just request a visit and ask! It takes just a few minutes. Prescription Policy. 

It’s also important to note what our doctors do not prescribe, including:

  • Anything on the DEA list of controlled substances (ex. opioids)
  • Lifestyle medications (ex. Hair loss, ED)
  • Diet pills (ex. phentermine)

*Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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Originally published Sep 15, 2019 9:52:00 PM.