Living » Ask the Experts at East Jefferson General Hospital

Should I take antibiotics for a cold?

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In general, antibiotics should not be used to treat a cold. (Occasionally, a cold will develop into a more serious condition such as a sinus infection, in which case antibiotics may be necessary.) Overuse of antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance. This resistance reduces or, in time, eliminates the ability of these drugs to be effective against bacteria—meaning it becomes increasingly more difficult to treat even a routine infection.

By following a few simple steps, however, you can help to reduce antibiotic resistance.

The key is for all of us to understand that we do play a role in this. The following tips can help you to reduce your susceptibility to antibiotic resistance:

• Only take antibiotics when appropriate. Do not use them to treat a cold.

• Reduce the instances of use. Ask your physician if there is anything else that could make you feel better sooner.

• Do not save antibiotics for the next time you are sick. Discard all unused medication once you have completed your entire course of treatment.

• When antibiotics are prescribed, take them exactly as ordered. Do not skip dosages.

• Complete the entire course of treatment. Do not stop taking antibiotics only because you feel better. If treatment stops too soon, there is a greater chance of some bacteria surviving, thus becoming resistant.

• Do not take antibiotics that are prescribed for someone else. Their antibiotic may not be appropriate for your illness.

• If your physician recommends something other than an antibiotic, do not pressure them for antibiotics. Ask what other medications may relieve your symptoms.

To learn more about antibiotic resistance, or to schedule an appointment with an EJGH Internist, call HealthFinder at 504-456-5000, or visit ejgh.org.

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