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Health & Exercise Forum

Antibiotics: Dispelling Myths About the Wonder Drug. Part 2 of 3

Mar 24, 2014

Trived, Shreya Guest Columnist: Shreya Trivedi, 3rd Year Medical Student The Commonwealth Medical College

ANNOUNCEMENT: Attention Health Care Professionals

The Commonwealth Medical College will host a one day symposium on infectious diseases on Saturday, April 5, 2014 from 8 am to 12 noon.

Location: TCMC 525 Pine Street, Scranton, PA

For more information contact: JoAnn Babish, 570-207-3686 or visit

Health & Exercise Forum will dedicate the next three weeks to columns related to infectious diseases to raise the level of awareness in NEPA.  

It’s just 10 o’ clock in the morning at work and you are starting to get the sniffles. You are falling behind on your work as your head begins to start pounding. By late afternoon, you are coughing up a storm and your desk is covered with discolored Kleenex tissues. By now it’s crystal clear you’ve come down with something. Bad colds, sore throats, bronchitis, the flu are quite common this time of the year and the typical reflex reaction is to call your family physician and get antibiotics. The latter part of this knee-jerk reflex might not be, ironically, a healthy thing.

Last week we discussed what exactly an antibiotic is and the history of antibiotics. This week’s column will discuss when antibiotics are most effective and appropriate.

Top 5 infections where antibiotics are necessary because of their bacterial nature:

  1. Strep Throat
  2. Sinus infections lasting more 10 days, associated with fever or worsening symptoms
  3. Cellulitis/abscesses
  4. Urinary tract infections causing pain on urination
  5. Pneumonia

However, keep in mind that use of antibiotics can easily turn into abuse for these common viral infections below.

Top 5 infections where antibiotics are unnecessary because of their viral nature:

  1. Common Cold
  2. Tonsillitis/ Pharyngitis
  3. Bronchitis (90% are viral)
  4. Flu (influenza) after 48 hours
  5. Stomach flu

What happens when you are sick because of a viral infection and you do take antibiotics?

Since antibiotics are ineffective in destroying a virus, you are only subjecting yourself to the side effects of them– the most common being diarrhea and upset stomach.  More importantly, the unnecessary antibiotics will kill off the good bacteria natural to your body that are helping your digestive system and helping your body fight infections. Thus, only bacteria that are resistant to medicine will remain. This creates an empty playground for those resistant germs to grow and multiply. One unfortunate outcome could be that later on, if you could get sick from resistant bacteria, the antibiotics that you actually need this time might not work against the resistant strain.

Antibiotics resistance is one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. At the heart of the problem is the physician-patient relationship. A study reported by the Center of Disease Control showed that pediatricians prescribe antibiotics 62% of the time if they perceive patients expect them versus only 7% of the time if they feel patients do not expect them to do so. Many patients demand antibiotics as a quick fix when they come down with something, not knowing that antibiotics have no power against a viral bug or won’t make them get better faster. It is natural instinct to want to do something or take something to feel better. Physicians also need to prescribe antibiotics only when necessary and focus on educating and explaining their decisions and treatments to the patients. This way, both the physician and patient must play their part in helping change the future of antibiotic use.

But at the end of the day, you resemble Rudolph the red-nose reindeer with your bright red nose and you still feel like a zombie. After you’ve gone to the doctor and she has told you that it is something viral and doesn’t require antibiotics, what can you do? Rest, take fluids, use a cool mist vaporizer with some TLC are all natural and worthwhile measures you can take while the virus runs its course; Tylenol and Motrin will also help relieve any pain or fever.  Your nose will go back to its normal shade and you will be able to put the Kleenex back in your desk drawer soon enough.

Guest Columnist, Shreya Trivedi  is a 3rd year medical student at The Commonwealth Medical College. Shreya was born in India but grew up in Randolph, NJ. She was a Biology and Honors Major with a philosophy minor at Villanova University where she was involved in researching uterine matrix remodeling of the endometrium. She also worked as a tour guide, orientation counselor and leader of many diversity initiatives, such as President of the South Asian Club. As a Fulbright Scholar, Shreya studied in South Korea, where she taught and worked on various health projects in the community. After medical school, she aspires to complete an internal medicine residency.

Medical Reviewer: Dr. Susheer Gandotra is an infectious disease specialist at Pocono Medical Center

Read “Health & Exercise Forum” – Every Monday in the Scranton Times-Tribune.  This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor of Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College