We are currently recognizing U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week.
New Braunfels Pediatric Associates really take this stewardship seriously!
When a patient comes into the office with a set of complaints, it is a doctor’s primary responsibility to evaluate the pattern of illness and physical findings to decide if it is viral or bacterial. Bacteria require antibiotics for treatment but most viral colds get better with time and home remedies.
Some doctors are very quick with antibiotics because they think that the patient demands it. But this is an abandonment of the doctor’s duty to treat appropriately. One of our jobs is to protect the patient from the cost and risk of unnecessary medications!
When an antibiotic is given to someone with a cold, you will still get better in 5-7 days (you were going to get better in that time frame already!)
But the antibiotic also goes into the bowel wiping out a large number of your bowel germs. Unfortunately we need those guys to digest and break down food, so many get diarrhea.
In the presence of unnecessary antibiotics your normal germs also have a needless opportunity to develop resistance. Then when the same med is given next time to treat, say, strep, it is less likely to work.
Every drug exposure can lead to allergy.
Every prescription costs money and adds to your insurance cost.
Now don’t get me wrong! There are times to use antibiotics! We are blessed to live in a time when diagnoses like pneumonia or cellulitis aren’t life threatening.
A UTI or Strep throat become almost trivial. I am glad that antibiotics are in a good doctor’s arsenal to fight serious illness.
Going forward we encourage patients to use home remedies like gargling and herbal tea with lemon and honey. Hot showers and Vick’s and nasal rinse all have a purpose. But if you are getting sicker despite home measures or the fever is too high or bad sore throat in school age child or yellow nasal discharge or an earache appears days into a cold... then your doc should do a careful exam and make a recommendation.
I worry about phone doctor consults with no real exam. I worry about diagnosis of strep without a swab. I worry about doctors diagnosing flu and then giving antibiotics.
In summary this week gives us all a reminder that antibiotic usage matters and that careful and appropriate use may preserve antibiotics as a valuable tool for years to come.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at NBPA ant here’s to you and your family’s health!
Mark D Statler MD