By Meagan Jackman
Doctors at the BYU Student Health Clinic are heeding the call to cut back on unnecessary use of antibiotics to treat viral illness, such as the common cold.
People consume about 235 million doses of antibiotics annually, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The CDC estimates that between 20 and 50 percent of these are unnecessary.
“One of the common misconceptions is that antibiotics will cure everything,” said Dr. Robert Romney, medical director of the BYU student health clinic. “A lot of the time people come to the doctor hoping to get an antibiotic to cure a cold.”
Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria. They can be an effective treatment for bacterial infections, including strep throat, pneumonia, and sinus infections, Romney said.
Most people confuse bacterial infections with viral infections. However, the best treatments for viral infection in most healthy adults are over-the-counter medications, according to the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.
A common problem is that people will put up with a cold for about a week and then decide they need to see a doctor, Romney said. If the doctor is not careful and prescribes an antibiotic, the person will eventually get better because cold usually only last up to 14 days.
Experts have warned that the overuse of antibiotics is causing germs to become resistant to the drugs.
“We end up with situations where we cannot do anything about the bacteria infection without getting into the expensive antibiotic therapy and hospitalization,” Romney said.
To avoid this potential danger the BYU health center verifies that the infection is bacterial by a simple blood test before prescribing antibiotics.
“What we do at the student health clinic is we check the white-blood count, which will generally be elevated, not always, but generally in the presence of the bacterial infection,” Romney said.
It is important to remember when taking an antibiotic to take the entire antibiotic prescribed. If you stop taking it because you feel better you could leave behind germs, Romney said.
There are major differences between the common cold and the flu, according to the Center for Disease Control. Colds are rare in adults and older children, but they can produce fevers as high as 102 degrees Fahrenheit in infants and small children. The flu usually produces a fever of 102 degrees, but can go up to 104 degrees. This fever usually lasts three to four days.
Other symptoms of the common cold are runny nose, sneezing and a sore throat. However, these are rare in the flu.
Colds produce mild muscle aches and cause one to become tired and weak. The flu produces muscle aches that can be extremely severe and cause one to be weak and tired for two days or more.