The most important thing that most people do not understand is that antibiotics are only good for bacterial infections. They do not work against viruses. This means that they will do absolutely nothing to help cure your common cold or flu. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between bacteria and viruses; for the most part, viruses will improve with time on their own, whereas bacterial infections will continue to worsen until medication is administered. This is why your medical practitioner may say, “Let’s wait and see” before giving you treatment. They are not trying to inconvenience you by making you come back for another visit; they are trying to prevent unnecessary antibiotic usage. The “watch and wait” method is commonly used by physicians, with the caveat that if things do get worse, you come back sooner rather than later.
Some signs and symptoms that you should be watching for that may indicate that you require antibiotics are:
⦁ Fever lasting for more than 5 days. It is very important that if you have had a temperature of >38 degrees Celsius daily for 5 days that you go to your physician or local emergency department to be examined, even if you do not have any other symptoms.
⦁ Wet cough with fever ( again lasting for more than 5 days). This could be a sign of a bacterial lung infection such as pneumonia.
⦁ Redness spreading from a recent cut/injury or pus coming from it. This is a signs that you injury is likely infected. If there is streaking redness extending up your limb, it may be very serious and require hospital admission and IV antibiotics.
⦁ Sore throat and fever on their own ( no cough, runny/stuffy nose). Strep throat, or other bacterial throat infections, do not typically occur with other symptoms besides sore throat and fever. If there are other symptoms, it is likely to be viral. White spots on your tonsils can occur with both viral and bacterial infections.
⦁ Persistent ear or tooth ache. Ear infections are common with children, and again can occur with both viruses and bacteria, or even just sinus congestion. The physician can look at the ear drum and see if it appears to be infected. See your dentist for a tooth ache to determine what the cause of the tooth pain is. If your teeth are in poor shape, you may have a dental abscess.
⦁ Urinary symptoms such as burning, frequency, urgency of urination. Urinary infections (UTIs) are common in females. Some people have such issues with them that they are on antibiotics permanently. Your physician should get a urine sample from you and test it for bacteria.
⦁ Severe abdominal pain with fever. This is typically a reason you should be heading to the emergency department. Appendicitis, or cholecystitis (gallbladder infection) can occur and be potentially life threatening. Antibiotics and/or surgery may be necessary.
When in doubt, it is always better to go get a medical professional’s opinion. Although it can sometimes be discouraging that you walk away empty handed, it really is for your benefit. Antibiotics themselves can have negative side effects such as stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, yeast infections, and in some cases, a drug resistant infection of your colon called C. Difficile. This is why it is not just important to the world for proper antibiotic usage, but also to yourself!
Antibiotics are amazing drugs that can cure many issues. It’s important that we are able to continue to use them. That’s done by using them only when necessary to prevent resistance.