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Don't Overdo It With Antibiotics

April 09, 2001|Jane E. Allen

Got a stuffy nose, sore throat, cold or bronchitis? Tough it out without the antibiotics and try some over-the-counter remedies or gargling with salt water, says a panel of doctors concerned about antibiotic overuse.

Most of the time, your condition will resolve itself in a couple of weeks and the medication wouldn't have done anything for you, they say. That's because in most cases, these infections are caused by viruses. Antibiotics are good only in attacking bacteria.

But if you take the antibiotics when you don't need them, you're fueling the rise in antibiotic-resistant strains of bugs like Streptococcus pneumoniae, a leading cause of bacterial pneumonia, bacterial meningitis, bacterial sinus infections and ear infections.

The recommendations are part of guidelines on appropriate antibiotic use compiled by representatives of professional medical groups representing internal medicine, family practice, emergency medicine, infectious diseases and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They developed them because about three-quarters of the antibiotics prescribed each year were for upper respiratory infections.

Of course, the new guidelines don't apply if you suffer from chronic lung or sinus diseases, diabetes or heart disease, or are over 65.

For more information, the American College of Physicians-American Society for Internal Medicine has published a patient education brochure on antibiotics. Call (800) 523-1546, Ext. 2600, or visit http://www.doctorsforadults.com.

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