Antibiotics, Less is More
Antibiotics are very effective and can be lifesaving in the treatment of some infections, but they don’t cure all infections and can sometimes cause complications.
Therefore, it is important that antibiotics are used appropriately.
Antibiotics are effective against bacteria but not against viruses. Therefore, antibiotics do not help in viral illnesses such as flu and colds and should not be prescribed. However, because many bacterial infections have similar symptoms, antibiotics tend to be prescribed ‘just in case’, leading to overuse.
Patients with bacterial infections tend to be sicker, have a high fever and shaking chills, have elevated white blood cell counts. Cultures were taken from the throat, sputum, urine, blood or wound help identify the bacteria and its sensitivity to various antibiotics. This allows the physician to choose an effective antibiotic.
Antibiotic use is associated with complications. Some of them are:
- Allergic reactions from minor skin rashes to severe life-threatening reactions such as difficulty breathing.
- Antibiotics cannot distinguish between normal body, “good” bacteria, and disease-causing, “bad” bacteria. Antibiotics cause a disturbance in the natural balance of organisms, which may lead to severe diarrhea or, more commonly, yeast vaginitis in women.
- Other complications include gastrointestinal upset, sun sensitivity, and interactions with other medications.
- Development of antibiotic resistance is a growing concern with the overuse of antibiotics. The more antibiotics are used, the more resistance is likely. The key is to use fewer antibiotics.
In many hospitals in the United States, antibiotic resistant ‘super-bugs’ have become a huge health problem. For example, MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus) infections rates are high. Tuberculosis infections are multi-drug resistant.
The problem is that we use antibiotics too much. Heavy use of antibiotics creates resistance. Use fewer antibiotics.
Dr. Mahesh Ochaney is a solo practitioner who has been practicing Internal Medicine since 1991. Dr. Ochaney’s compassionate primary care has been recognized several times over the years, including being named a 2018 Top Doctor by Baltimore Magazine and receiving a State of Maryland Governor’s Citation.