News / Health

    Doctors Urged to Curb Overuse of Antibiotics During Cold, Flu Seasons

    Multiple antibiotic-resistant strains of Clostridium difficile have recently emerged, posing a worldwide health threat. Researchers have identified a nonantibiotic drug that could help combat C. difficile infection. (Credit: V. Altounian/Science Translati
    Multiple antibiotic-resistant strains of Clostridium difficile have recently emerged, posing a worldwide health threat. Researchers have identified a nonantibiotic drug that could help combat C. difficile infection. (Credit: V. Altounian/Science Translati
    Associated Press

    It's cold season, and the miserable continue to trudge in, seeking antibiotics because of mucus turned green, or a cough that has nagged for weeks.

    Despite years of warnings, doctors still overprescribe antibiotics for acute respiratory infections even though most are caused by viruses that those drugs cannot help.

    Now doctors are getting new tips on how to avoid unnecessary antibiotics for these common complaints -- and to withstand the patient who's demanding one.

    Sure bronchitis sounds scary. So describe it as a chest cold. And no, color changes don't mean it's time for an antibiotic.

    'Need to be judicious'

    "Antibiotics are terrific. Thank God we have them for really bad things. But we need to be judicious in the way we use them," said American College of Physicians President Dr. Wayne J. Riley, an internal medicine professor at Vanderbilt University.

    Rather than sending patients off with little advice about what to do while their bodies fight off a virus, how about a prescription instead for some over-the-counter or home remedies that just might ease the cough or the pain?

    "We're calling for the symptomatic prescription pad," Riley said, describing information sheets that suggest simple aids like humidifiers and plenty of fluid, have a space to scribble directions for an OTC drug -- and tell patients when to return if they're not getting better. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a sample on its website.

    Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness, and inappropriate prescribing is one factor. Repeated exposure can lead germs to become resistant to the drugs. The CDC estimates that drug-resistant bacteria cause 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths each year in the U.S.

    Another reason not to use them unnecessarily: side effects. Antibiotics are implicated in 1 of 5 emergency-room visits for bad drug reactions, CDC says. Particularly troubling is an increase in severe diarrhea caused by C-diff, the Clostridium difficile bug that can take hold in the gut after antibiotics kill off other bacteria.

    Problem for adults

    CDC has seen improvement from pediatricians in antibiotic prescribing but overuse remains a big problem for adults, especially with respiratory illnesses, said Dr. Lauri Hicks, who heads CDC's "Get Smart" antibiotic education campaign.

    Monday's guidelines, from CDC and the American College of Physicians, move beyond simple statements that antibiotics don't work for viruses like the common cold or the flu. They lay out how doctors begin deciding if antibiotics are warranted for some other common respiratory complaints, explain that decision to patients and offer guidance on symptom relief.

    Among the advice, published in Annals of Internal Medicine:

    • Acute bronchitis is airway inflammation, irritation that makes you cough, sometimes as long as six weeks. The guidelines say not to perform special testing or prescribe antibiotics unless pneumonia is suspected, something often accompanied by a fast heartbeat, fever or abnormal breathing sounds.

    Over-the-counter symptom relief includes cough suppressants such as dextromethorphan; mucus-thinning expectorants such as guaifenesin; and antihistamines or decongestants.

    • Sore throats are hugely common but adults are far less likely than children to have the strep throat that requires an antibiotic. A rapid strep test is available if patients have suspicious symptoms such as persistent fever, night sweats or swollen tonsils.

    Pain-relieving options for adults include aspirin, acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, and throat lozenges.

    • Sinus infections can be very painful but usually clear up without antibiotics even if bacteria are to blame. The guidelines say antibiotics should be reserved for patients with no signs of improvement after 10 days, severe symptoms such as fever higher than 102, or what's called double-sickening, when someone starts to recover and then gets worse.

    Possible symptom relievers include decongestants, nasal sprays, saline nasal irrigation and pain medications.

    Riley often has to explain how to tell if cough and cold relievers contain a sedating antihistamine, and that nasal sprays clear congestion quickly but that using them for too many days can trigger rebound symptoms

    'Dizzying array' of relievers

    He asks if patients are taking multiple products that contain acetaminophen, best known as Tylenol, because too much can damage the liver. Often, his patients say an over-the-counter drug isn't working when in fact, they didn't take it as directed.

    "There is a dizzying array" of drugstore symptom relievers, so don't make miserable patients sort through them without help, said CDC's Hicks.

    "There isn't a right answer that works for everybody," she said. But sometimes something as basic as a humidifier "can make a difference in terms of how you feel when you wake up in the morning."

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora