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Cold/Flu Season Brings Antibiotic Risk

The season of sore throats, the flu, and coughs is upon us, and doctors say the search to feel well again can actually hurt your health. Using antibiotics too often or when they can’t help…leads to superbugs that resist treatment, and health care professionals are working to curb antibiotic overuse.

When a sore throat or sinus infection strikes, some people rush to the doctor hoping to get antibiotics to wipe the sickness away. But many winter ailments are viral – some statistics show up to 90 percent – and most medicines are not effective remedies.

Doctor Chad Thury is a physician with Avera McGreevy in Sioux Falls. He says patients want to correct treatment, even if it means the answer is to treat symptoms instead of an actual infection.

"I try and take the time to explain to them what I think is going on. If it is a viral infection, what are the symptoms that they should expect? What’s the normal course of the type of infection that they maybe have, and when it should go away," Thury says." And then, what can they take to help get better faster?"

Thury says the answer may be over-the-counter medicines or prescription drugs that are not antibiotics. The physician says antibiotic resistance is only one risk of taking antibiotics too frequently or when they won’t help.

"The other aspect to antibiotic use aside from resistance is side effects. So a number of them cause loose stools, you can get rashes from them, bad allergic reactions," Thury says. "You can also get other intestinal infections, so there’s a number of other things that aren’t related to resistance that should be concerning in regards to antibiotic overuse.

Thury says lab tests or x-rays can sometimes determine antibiotics are the right course, but patients should ask their doctors why they’re prescribing antibiotics and exactly how they help their health.