When you’re sneezing, coughing and feeling miserable, it’s common to think that an antibiotic can put an end to your suffering. But unless you have a bacterial infection, an antibiotic can do more harm than good, warns Gus Ferrer, M.D., co-author of Cough Cures: The Complete Guide to the Best Natural Remedies and Over-the-Counter Drugs for Acute and Chronic Coughs
. Antibiotics are one of the most important classes of drugs in existence, having saved millions of lives since they’ve been in use. However, thanks to overuse and abuse, the bacteria they are supposed to kill are starting to build up a resistance. There are already some very potent and dangerous infections that are impervious to nearly every antibiotic available. In fact, antibiotic resistance has led to a rise of so called “superbugs” like MRSA, which are becoming epidemic in hospitals, of all places! Other medical care challenges have been created as a result of antibiotic resistance, including difficulty treating patients with pneumonia, blood infections, and some strains of tuberculosis. And organ transplants are in jeopardy because there are fewer drugs able to suppress the immune system during surgery and recovery.
Despite all the warnings about antibiotic resistance from groups such as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Ferrer says that patients still come in asking, even begging, that doctors dispense them. Nine out of 10 doctors feel under pressure to dispense an antibiotic when a patient asks, one survey found; another survey reveals that 97 percent of patients who request an antibiotic are written a prescription. So remember this: Antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. They don’t work against viruses, and most colds, flu and sore throats are caused by viruses. Taking an antibiotic as a “just in case” cure is unnecessary. It’s best to go without an antibiotic whenever you can.