Stop Superbugs This Flu Season
Used properly, antibiotics act as potent weapons in the fight against infection. But as cold and flu season looms, health officials warn about the safe use of these powerful drugs. Taking them when you don’t need to—or using them incorrectly when you do—could actually make you sicker.
When Antibiotics Don’t Work
Each time you take an antibiotic, the medication goes to work targeting bacteria. But germs have built-in defenses that make it possible for them to adapt and survive. When germs can defeat the drugs designed to destroy them, they are called antibiotic resistant.
Misuse of medication can contribute to antibiotic resistance. This includes skipping doses, stopping the drug early, or taking antibiotics prescribed for someone else. If you develop a drug-resistant infection, you might spread the germs to others and even stay sick longer.
What’s more, antibiotics for bacteria have no effect on infections caused by viruses. This includes:
- Colds and most coughs
- Most sore throats, except those caused by strep
- Almost all cases of bronchitis
- Some ear and sinus infections
Taking antibiotics for these illnesses won’t make you feel better and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in your own body or your community.
Smart Strategies to Battle Cold and Flu
No one wants to struggle through having a cold or flu. Here’s what you can do to help prevent viral illnesses before they start:
- Get a flu shot each year.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Eat a nutritious diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get plenty of sleep.
If you do get sick, don’t rely on antibiotics—let viral infections run their course. Over-the-counter cold medicines or fever reducers/pain relievers can soothe symptoms for adults. So can saline nasal spray, fluids, and rest. If your symptoms worsen or last more than a week, you should see a primary care provider.
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