• Laurel Contributor

The Antibiotic Dilemma

by Dr. Sue Aery

Some straight talk about the promise and pitfalls of antibiotic use and misuse can make all the difference in your body’s ongoing battles to keep you healthy.

There is a lot of sickness out there!

Have you noticed that colds linger longer and the flu is feared by all?

There is a lot of news covering the resistant strains of bacteria that no longer respond to antibiotics like they did years ago. The reason that this is happening is due to over-prescribing of antibiotics, often on the patients’ request. This is not only a concerning topic, but it’s terribly misunderstood. I will often be asked the question, “Should I get a flu shot or a pneumonia shot?”

My answer is always, “It depends on how you feel about injecting your body with chemicals and dead virus,” and it’s very personal – not a question that I can answer for anyone but myself – not even for my 93-year-old mother.

The same goes with antibiotics use, but I will offer some education around when antibiotics should be used, when they are not necessary and what other options are readily available, and how it’s important to catch bronchitis before it becomes pneumonia! A strep throat infection is also a bacterial infection and responds well to antibiotic treatment.

The bacterial infections are “live” infections and the bacteria needs to be identified and treated with a specific strain of antibiotic in order to respond. This is where it gets tricky, because overuse of antibiotics makes it harder to determine which one the infection and person will respond to effectively. Often times we hear of one person having to endure several rounds of antibiotics until the bacterial infection is finally defeated!

A virus, on the other hand, is a “dead” infection, one that invades the cells and causes a lot of body ache and fever. Unless there is a secondary bacterial infection, the virus will not respond to an antibiotic and an antibiotic prescription should not be given, even if the patient requests it. Most viruses must run their course and it’s very important to keep your immune system strong and healthy so the virus has the least impact. Most doctors know when it’s a virus rather than a bacterial infection and they can test for both!

Taking too many doses of antibiotics can and will deplete the function of the immune system, especially if the patient does not take a course of probiotics to restore the reserves of good and healthy bacteria that are vital for proper function and defense. Understand that yogurt will not suffice, although it may make the dose of antibiotics easier for the stomach to handle. Some lingering side effects of too much antibiotics and not enough probiotics may show up in a yeast infection or, even worse, a secondary infection because the immune system is so weakened by the first course of drugs as well as the original infection in the body. That’s one reason that it’s recommended that you complete the full dose of antibiotics, even if you feel better half-way through the prescription.

As I say to all of my patients, please read the labels and ask the pharmacist about what has been prescribed and what are the side effects. This is very important so that you can be advised, educated and be your own health advocate. Seek nutritional counseling; ask your medical professional for advice. Take note of what type of infection you have and take good care of your body and immune system before, during and after an infection, no matter what kind you have. Be healthy!

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