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Monday, December 16, 2013

Antibiotic abuse

Most parents and care-givers expect the doctor to prescribe an antibiotic whenever they take their child to the doctor for symptoms of cough and cold, a runny nose or a sore throat. In fact, during my practice, I had to face their (the patents') angry glances when I told them that the antibiotic was not only unnecessary, but likely to produce harm than good.

The CDC calls the misuse/overuse/abuse of antibiotics as one of the greatest scourges of the modern world. The reason for this is simple to understand.

The first thing to know is that most common infective illnesses are caused either by bacteria or by viruses. While bacteria are life forms and when attacked by antibiotics, are likely to get killed, viruses are pure genetic material that multiply inside human cells and thus cause illness. Treating a bacterial illness with an antibiotic may make sense if the child has been seen by a qualified doctor; managing a viral illness with the same kind of medicine is useless as viruses are not "life" forms in the way we understand life.

Well, then, you might ask, why all this hullabaloo over using antibiotics for viral illness? The reasons are twofold. The first is that antibiotic overuse may create an environment inside your body that makes bacteria get used to those antibiotics ... so that you need stronger and stronger antibiotic agents the next time you have the same illnesses that needed simpler antibiotics the last time around.

In addition to this problem of antibiotic resistant germs making their home in your body temple, there is one other major problem caused by the ill-advised use of antibiotics, which is the occurrence of SIDE EFFECTS.  As antibiotics are medicines, they can produce side-effects as varied as rashes, loose motions, fever, vomiting, body aches and so on. These side-effects are usually temporary, but can drain the little ones' energy and cause problems that may need a consultation with the HIGHER specialist. 

Thus, my advise to you all is this: try and resist an antibiotic prescription, and if you do need it, or think you need it, re-visit the child's doctor for him/her to endorse the need for it; use the entire course without interruption (usually, antibiotics are used for a fixed duration of between 6-10 days, but there are a few which are only needed to be given for 3 days, and some that are needed for longer than 10 days. The last bit of advice is to never keep the unused portion of a liquid antibiotic for future use as such antibiotics lose potency beyond the specified storage period of about 3-7 days.

An additional bit of caution: never use antibiotics prescribed for your friend/cousin/neighbour's child. This is simply disastrous.

I hope this post has helped to clarify the position about the captioned topic. Thank you for reading.

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Dr. Fuhrman

Dr. Fuhrman