Flu season might be winding down in the northern hemisphere as we move into our spring and summer seasons, but it’s just picking up in the southern hemisphere with the onset of winter.
Global air travel also makes it easy for colds, flu, bronchitis, sore throats, and many sinus and ear infections to surface at home, school and our workplaces year-round.
So how should you keep your family safe?
Many people assume that getting sick means they need an antibiotic to get better.
In fact, taking antibiotics for colds and other viral illnesses not only won’t work, it has dangerous side effects—over time. Globally, overexposure to antibiotics is producing drug-resistant bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotics that may have worked in the past.
Increasingly, I find myself prescribing antibiotics in increasingly higher doses to help my patients recover when suffering from serious bacterial infections.
Antibiotic resistance is a widespread problem, and one that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US call “one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.” With time, bacteria that were once highly responsive to antibiotics have become more and more resistant.
Among those that are becoming harder to treat are pneumococcal infections such as:
Although bacteria and viruses are both too small to be seen without a microscope, they’re as different as giraffes and goldfish.
Both types of infections are caused by microbes — bacteria and viruses, respectively — and spread by things such as coughing and sneezing, contact with infected people, especially through kissing and sex, contact with contaminated surfaces, food, and water, contact with infected creatures, including pets, livestock, and insects such as fleas and ticks.
But the infections are dissimilar in many other important respects, most of them due to the organisms’ structural differences and the way they respond to medications.
While viruses and bacteria can cause similar symptoms, concerns that suggest a serious infection may include:
Other symptoms, such as sore throats and swollen glands, are more generalized and may need an expert opinion to decide how best to proceed. They can occur with either bacterial or viral infections.
If your infection, sore throat, cough or flu-like illness is overwhelming and feels like the worst infection you can recall in some time, you should always go and get checked by your health care professional!
Another indicator that you need further attention is not seeing improvement or easing of your symptoms within a couple of days.
So what should you do? To increase your bacterial resistance and minimize your odds of getting sick, keep these tips in mind:
Ask your healthcare professional about over-the-counter treatment options that may help reduce your symptoms.
For colds like these, the advice you got from your parents is likely the best:
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