Do I Need an Antibiotic?

My favorite dwarves, Wheezy, Sneezy, and Drippy are back.  It's allergy season again, right on the heels of a bronchitis outbreak.  So how do you decide if you need to see your doctor?  Is it allergies, a virus or a bacterial infection that needs antibiotics?

First of all, let us remember that antibiotics have been around for less than 100 years.  Not every bacterial infection needs antibiotics.  We have great immune systems that can handle a lot.  Sometimes we just need to give our bodies a bit of support, some rest and fluids, and TIME.

If you have lots of clear fluids coming from various holes in your head like your eyes and nose, and your eyes itch and are a little pink, you are probably having allergies.  There are several medications which were recently made "over-the-counter" that use to be prescription, like Claritin and Zyrtec, which can be very helpful.  Benadryl works well, but can be very sedating to some. 

If you have a fever, 2 really red crusty eyes, nausea, ache all over, shoulders, back, headache, this sounds more like a virus.  Viruses spread quickly from person to person and within any one person.  Viruses are tiny and go everywhere through the air and through your body.  Viruses are not killed by antibiotics and just have to run their course.  You can make yourself feel much better by keeping up on fluids, taking ibuprofen or Tylenol and RESTING. 

The flu is a virus.  Antibiotics don't help.  you can take antivirals like Tamiflu.  They are very expensive and if started within the first 24-48 hours of symptoms, can shorten the course of the disease by a day.  Granted, a day of the flu can last a really long time, but the currently available medications don't really seem worth it.  The supportive measures your mother always told you to do like aspirin and chicken soup, fluids and rest.

Bacteria are bigger and can't run around so easily.  If you have fever and one part that is really sick, like an earache or sore throat, or cough or sinus pain or one red eye, that is more likely a bacterial infection.  (Strep infections can cause some broader symptoms because some strep types can release toxins that can cause belly discomfort and rashes.) Antibiotics help your immune system get rid of bacteria sooner. If you are on an effective antibiotic, you should start to feel that it is helping within the first 48-72 hours.  You won't necessarily be all better, but you should be able to tel that you are headed in the right direction.

You cannot become immune to antibiotics.  When used inappropriately, antibiotics can lead to strains of bacteria that become immune to them. 

If you have have some underlying conditions, like asthma, heart disease or diabetes, you might need to seek medical attention earlier rather than latter due to the increased risk of infections becoming more serious, more quickly.  You might need to seek medical attention if you've had an infection that lasts longer than a week or if it's getting worse after a few days instead of getting better.

We are an impatient people and we want to feel better yesterday.  Sometimes your body is going to make you lie down and give it a break.  I hereby give you permission to listen to your amazing body and help it do its amazing healing thing.  If you're miserable and not sure, go get a professional opinion and get the help  you need. 

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