Antibiotics only if necessary

In winter, colds of all kinds are circulating. To get fit again, many patients come to a doctor's office to prescribe an antibiotic. However, the doctor does not always comply with this request. If a cough occurs, the lungs may be examined and an additional blood test and X-ray may be necessary. And even then it is uncertain whether the patient will receive the desired prescription.

Many people think an antibiotic also helps with influenza and colds. However, medical examinations must first determine whether a cough or bronchitis has been caused by a virus or a bacterium. The antibiotic only helps against bacteria, but not against viral infections. An antibiotic can be used for supperating tonsils or bacterial pneumonia. Bladder infections, which plague women, may require an antibiotic, too.

With a viral pneumonia or the typical viral cold, the antibiotic does not help, but on the contrary: it is harmful. Apart from the side effects that can occur - such as intolerance, allergies or stomach and intestinal problems - it attacks the intestinal flora, which is important for our immune system and therefore for the body's own defence. And we need a strong immune system when we are already cold or sick. 

In addition, the frequent and incorrect use of antibiotics also poses another major threat. Bacterial form that have become resistant to antibiotics. Bacteria have the ingenious property to change their genetic make-up and also exchange genes with other bacteria. In this way they are prepared for new dangers, much to the regret of the doctors when they discover that a prescribed antibiotic is no longer effective in a patient. If this dangerous development continues unabated, all antibiotics could soon be ineffective and infections that are now well curable could lead to serious health problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) is already warning against a "post-antibiotic era". But at least: with the right measures, the dangerous germs can be reduced - and national and international concepts exist. In addition, all individuals can also rethink their own treatment of antibiotics and consider the consequences.

If you are ill and your doctor decides, based on the results of his examination, that you do not need an antibiotic because it is a viral infection, then discuss with him what you can do to get well. You can support your immune system by resting and sleeping well. Drink a lot and let the temperature rise to 39.5 degrees Celsius. This applies to school children and adults because viruses have an enemy: high temperatures. If the temperature is lowered too early, the viruses are happy and continue to multiply. 

If you need to take an antibiotic, it is important not to discontinue it too early. Take the whole pack! Otherwise, there is a risk that only the less fit bacteria will be killed and the more resistant bacteria will remain. They would then have a free field and could multiply unhindered, with the effect you might have a disease recurrence. In addition, the remaining bacteria form the first germ cell for a new resistant strain. Take the prescribed amount and not less. Also keep the recommended intervals between doses, This ensures a constant level of active ingredients in the blood and makes certain that the antibiotic can have its full effect. This also reduces the risk of resistant bacteria using their survival advantage and multiplying. 

A particular danger lurks in the hospital, a collection point for many bacteria. Strict hygiene regulations therefore apply here. If you are visiting someone in the hospital, wash and disinfect your hands before visiting the person. In this way you protect them from transmitting pathogens that could be present on your hands. Even after the visit, wash and disinfect your hands to protect yourself or others from pathogenic agents. If you yourself are in the hospital as a patient, please contact the ward staff for information on hygiene.

Copyright: Landeszentrale fuer Gesundheitsfoerderung in Rheinland-Pfalz e.V. (LZG) Germany