Get Smart about Antibiotics
It’s getting to be that season…..respiratory viruses are starting to increase in our community. Influenza viruses typically peak during December through February, but there are cases out there already. It’s a great time to get your flu vaccine if you haven’t already. A recent study showed that the flu vaccine decreases your risk of getting hospitalized with influenza pneumonia. The cases of influenza reported so far this year are a good match with this year’s influenza vaccination, and protection is good.
So, flu vaccine can help keep you from getting influenza. But what about the other respiratory viruses? Rhinovirus, the usual cause of the common cold, is more common than influenza virus right now. And there are several other respiratory viruses to worry about. How do you prevent those?
There are not vaccines, but you can wash hands and use hand sanitizer often. Keep your hands away from your mouth and eyes. And, if possible, avoid sick people. (I know, you with young children just chuckled.) So, if you do get sick, what then? Your first inclination may be to go to the doctor for antibiotics. After all, your head is stuffy, your nose is running, you have some fever, and now you are starting to cough. If you have body aches, fever and chills and a high fever (102 or higher), you could have influenza and could benefit from early treatment with an antiviral such as oseltamavir (Tamiflu®). Call or see your doctor to determine this.
If your symptoms are mild, however, you most likely have a non-influenza respiratory virus and antibiotics will not help you. In fact, they can harm you. Besides the usual side effects of gastrointestinal upset, antibiotics kill beneficial bacteria in your gut and change your microbiome. Your gut microbiome is the population of bacteria in your intestinal tract. Research is finding that the microbiome plays a very important role in our health. It helps to maintain our health and immune system. In fact, studies have found that changes in the microbiome can increase your risk for obesity!
There are things you can do to support you respiratory system and health while you have a cold. Decongestants can decrease nasal secretions, but they can increase blood pressure and cause a dry mouth. Use a cold steam ultrasonic diffuser and add some essential oils or oil blends containing eucalyptus oil to soothe your nose and throat. Drink lots of fluids and stay well-hydrated. Hot tea including honey, lemon, and/or clove and cinnamon will help you stay hydrated and provide relief to your throat. Get plenty of rest.
This is “Get Smart about Antibiotics” week. Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage on this topic and learn when to use antibiotics.
Blaser, Martin. Missing Microbes. 2014. Henry Holt & Co.