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Hello Folks! Welcome to Our Blog.

To have a cold? Take an antibiotic?

Earache? Take an antibiotic.

Acne? Take an antibiotic.

That’s what people think anyway. But is this really the best course of action? Does the short-term gain outweigh the long-term consequences? And is there a short-term gain to start with? Antibiotics do not help colds caused by viruses. Most ear infections clear up just as quickly without antibiotics. Sure, severe acne gets better with oral antibiotics, but what about the millions of teens who take them for a few pimples?

Every day doctors see problems related to the use of antibiotics. Here are five reasons why doctors try to limit its use, and why you should think twice about taking one.

1. Yeast infection. Patients are often unaware that our bodies are covered in germs, both inside and out. The skin, the mouth, the vagina, the intestine, all have their own population of bacteria. For the most part, these microbes stay where they belong and do what they’re supposed to do. One function of the normal flora (normal population of bacteria) is to keep the bad ones at bay. There are always some bad bacteria around, but they are usually crowded out by the good ones. However, taking an antibiotic often kills off the population of good bacteria and allows a different microbe to take over. Most commonly, yeast is the intruder. Once the bacteria are out of the way, the few yeasts that remain on the skin, in the vagina, or in the colon claim territory as their own. Fungal overgrowth often leads to symptoms of vaginal yeast infection or yeast infection on the skin, usually in warm areas like the armpits, groin, or under the breasts.

two. Clostridium difficile colitis. Just as yeast overgrowth can occur and lead to infection when normal bacteria are killed, harmful bacteria can also occur. The normal flora of the intestine is often susceptible to an antibiotic taken for an illness. Nevertheless, Clostridium difficile (Prayed against Diff.) It is not eliminated by common antibiotics such as penicillin, sulfonamides, or erythromycin. The few against diff. whatever bacteria you may harbor in your gut won’t harm you as long as their numbers remain limited. But when an overgrowth occurs, foul-smelling diarrhea occurs, sometimes accompanied by fever, dehydration, or the need for hospitalization. C. diff. colitis requires a different antibiotic to rid your body of this harmful organism.

3. Strength. As mentioned above, certain bacteria are already resistant to antibiotics. However, there is a possibility that many bacteria may become resistant to useful antibiotics. What if penicillin becomes ineffective for strep throat? In some cases it already is. MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) is a harmful bacteria that has emerged in recent years due to the overuse of antibiotics. If you remember your high school genetics, you may know that when bacteria (or people) multiply by the billions, some mutations are inevitable. In the population of microbes, this often means that when billions of bacteria reproduce, some of the daughter bacteria inherit a mutation that makes them resistant to certain antibiotics. In general, these mutated bacteria, although stronger in the sense that they could survive an “attack” of penicillin, are actually weaker in other ways and die naturally but prematurely. However, if the entire population of bacteria is put through a round of antibiotics, weaker but penicillin-resistant bacteria may live on to repopulate the environment. So the next time penicillin is used, it won’t work. Doctors see antibiotic resistance every day. It IS a real threat and, at least for now, we don’t have any new antibiotics on the horizon to use against these resistant bacteria.

4. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Even in addition to killing the body’s normal flora, antibiotics themselves can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. These are chemicals after all, chemicals that the body can reject as foreign. The erythromycin class of antibiotics is especially notorious for causing gastrointestinal symptoms by stimulating naturally occurring intestinal contractions.

5. Medication allergies. Any patient can be allergic to any medication and antibiotics are no exception. Although an antibiotic allergy can often manifest itself only as a rash, true anaphylaxis can occur with the use of any antibiotic. Anaphylaxis is a whole-body allergic response that can include hives, nausea, dizziness, itching, swelling, and difficulty breathing, much like a bee sting allergy. Anytime you think you’re having a reaction to a medicine, call your doctor. If you have trouble breathing or feel like you might pass out, call 911. This is a medical emergency.

Just writing this reminds me to be careful when prescribing antibiotics to my patients. The next time your doctor prescribes a round of penicillin or another antibiotic, ask how necessary the drug really is. They are often prescribed for convenience rather than necessity. If an antibiotic will only heal you a day faster, maybe it’s better to go without it.

Copyright 2011 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

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