Not only are we getting a daily dose of antibiotics at dinner time when we eat meat or dairy products, but we are also commonly bombarded by them in soaps, hand sanitizers, cleaning products, and through countless prescriptions that we receive from the doctor, often for only minor health issues. This has contributed to the scary rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of common diseases. But not only could many of these antibiotics be doing you no good; some of them could actually be making your problems worse.
Sore throats and acute bronchitis are two of the more common symptoms of bacterial infections in the throat and lungs, and antibiotics are usually prescribed for these infections. However, new information may point to the fact that taking these medications aren’t just unnecessary, but they may even be counterproductive.
The National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey provided interesting insights into the usefulness of antibiotics for treating these bacterial infections. Researchers at Harvard University analyzed the results of these two surveys, finding that antibiotic prescriptions may not be necessary for the common sore throat.
The surveys showed that doctors prescribed antibiotics in 73% of acute bronchitis cases and 60% of sore throat cases, but the prescriptions were completely unnecessary in most of these cases. Roughly 10% of the sore throat cases called for antibiotics, and almost none of the acute bronchitis cases justified the prescriptions.
Sore throats that are caused by the streptococcus virus will require antibiotics, as strep throat can be very persistent. However, in the rest of the cases, antibiotics are unnecessary due to the fact that a virus (as opposed to bacteria) is usually behind the sore throat and bronchial infections. With only 10% of sore throat cases being the result of strep throat, the surveys reveal that far too many antibiotics are prescribed for the wrong reasons.
Antibiotics are effective at dealing with bacteria, which is why bacterial infections like streptococcus respond well to these antibiotics. However, in the cases of viral infections, antibiotics are next to useless, and they can actually cause more harm than good. Putting antibiotics unnecessarily into the human body exposes it to drug reactions, yeast infections, medicine allergies, nausea, and the myriad side effects of strong antibiotics. With all of these negative reactions, the antibiotics remain ineffective at eliminating the viral infection. In fact, it is believed that prescribing antibiotics for these viral infections is what has led to “superbugs” – viruses and bacteria that are resistant to drugs. Not only are these antibiotics useless in up to 90% of cases, but they can actually do more harm than good.
Dr. Jeffrey A. Linder, senior author of the study, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, recommends a very simple treatment for the majority of bronchial infections cases and sore throats: the use of a humidifier, increased fluid intake, and rest. Pain relievers can provide some benefits to the viral infections, but the infection usually takes a few weeks for the body to eliminate. The main symptoms – runny nose, head pains, and hoarseness – usually disappear within the first week or two, but the cough caused by these infections may persist. Taking antibiotics will simply harm your body and even cause resistant strains in the body, so Dr. Linder recommends staying away from them if the infection is viral in nature.