What Else Can I Do To Prevent Getting Colds And The Flu
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcoholic hand wipes. Cold and flu viruses are spread by touching your nose or mouth after touching an infected person, breathing in the air of an infected person’s sneeze or cough, or touching objects that have come in contact with the virus and then touching your nose.
Other prevention tips are to eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of liquids , and avoid close contact with people who have colds. Also, get an annual flu vaccine.
Why Can’t I Take An Antibiotic Just In Case
Aside from the fact that an antibiotic won’t work unless your illness is bacterial in nature, there are significant problems with the unnecessary use of antibiotics.
For one, it upsets your body’s balance of beneficial bacteria, which may lead to antibiotic-associated diarrhea and the development of an allergic reaction to the drug.
It also leads births antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. When bacteria are exposed to an antibiotic, many are killed, but some that are resistant to the drug’s effects usually remain. In other words, the antibiotic kills off the weakest bacteria while the stronger resistant bacteria continue multiplying. With this, the bacteria develop the ability to beat the drugs designed to kill them off.
The eventual result can be superbugsbacteria that become resistant to several types of antibiotics. These are very hard to kill and may only succumb to extremely powerful versions of these drugs. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 2.8 million people are infected by these superbugs every year in the U.S., with at least 35,000 people dying from them.
The powerful antibiotics needed for killing superbugs are much more costly and pose a greater risk of significant adverse effects that may require hospitalization. Some superbugs go on to cause devastating and even fatal infections that are incurable with current antibiotics.
Examples of antibiotic-resistant superbugs include:
- Multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter
The Defensive Role Of Gut Bacteria
How exactly did ingesting antibiotics weaken the mice before their exposure to the flu? The researchers may have an explanation for this phenomenon.
As part of the study, the team also found that type I interferon signaling a form of protein signaling that regulates the response of a type of cell that lines the lungs is key to stopping the flu virus from replicating in the lungs.
Usually, gut bacteria would drive interferon signaling, telling the lung cells to react to the virus, stopping it from replicating, and thus making survival and recovery more likely.
We were surprised to discover that the cells lining the lung, rather than immune cells, were responsible for early flu resistance induced by microbiota, notes Wack.
The process by which antibiotics seem to render the lungs more vulnerable to viral infections is a complex one, and it relates, in part, to when and how the immune response occurs.
Gut bacteria usually send interferon signals that switch on the antiviral gene Mx1 in mice, corresponding to a similar gene called MxA in humans. However, antibiotic treatment delays the switching on of the antiviral gene, affecting the efficiency of the response that the body initiates against the virus.
It takes around 2 days for immune cells to mount a response, in which time the virus is multiplying in the lung lining, explains Wack.
Recommended Reading: How To Get Rid Of Uti Antibiotics
What Are Resistant Bacteria
Each time you take an antibiotic, bacteria are killed. Sometimes, bacteria causing infections are already resistant to prescribed antibiotics. Bacteria may also become resistant during treatment of an infection. Resistant bacteria do not respond to the antibiotics and continue to cause infection. A common misconception is that a person’s body becomes resistant to specific medicines. However, it is the bacteria, not people, that become resistant to the medicines.
Each time you take or give your child an antibiotic unnecessarily or improperly, you increase the chance of developing medicine-resistant bacteria. Therefore, it is critically important to take antibiotics only when necessary. Because of these resistant bacteria, some diseases that used to be easy to treat are now becoming nearly impossible to treat.
Bacteria can develop resistance to certain medicines:
How To Prevent Flu
The flu vaccine reduces the risk of catching flu and spreading it to others.
It’s best to get the vaccine in early October- the start of the flu season.
You should get the flu vaccine every year to lower your risk of getting the flu virus. This is because the type of types of flu viruses that are circulating every year are different.
Recommended Reading: Antibiotics To Treat Kidney Infection
How Do Antibiotics Work
There are different types of antibiotic, which work in one of two ways:
- A bactericidal antibiotic, such as penicillin, kills the bacteria. These drugs usually interfere with either the formation of the bacterial cell wall or its cell contents.
- A bacteriostatic stops bacteria from multiplying.
Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses.
A doctor prescribes antibiotics for the treatment of a bacterial infection. It is not effective against viruses.
Know whether an infection is bacterial or viral helps to effectively treat it.
Viruses cause most upper respiratory tract infections , such as the common cold and flu. Antibiotics do not work against these viruses.
If people overuse antibiotics or use them incorrectly, the bacteria might become resistant. This means that the antibiotic becomes less effective against that type of bacterium, as the bacterium has been able to improve its defenses.
A doctor can prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic to treat a wide range of infections. A narrow-spectrum antibiotic is only effective against a few types of bacteria.
Some antibiotics attack aerobic bacteria, while others work against anaerobic bacteria. Aerobic bacteria need oxygen and anaerobic bacteria do not.
In some cases, a healthcare professional may provide antibiotics to prevent rather than treat an infection, as might be the case before surgery. This is the prophylactic use of antibiotics. People commonly use these antibiotics before bowel and orthopedic surgery.
What Are Flu Antiviral Drugs
Flu antiviral drugs are prescription medicines that fight against flu viruses in your body. Antiviral drugs are not sold over the counter. You can only get them if you have a prescription from a health care provider. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections. Antiviral drugs for flu only work to treat flu. Flu antiviral drugs are different than antiviral drugs used to treat other infectious diseases such as COVID-19. Antiviral drugs prescribed to treat COVID-19 do not work to treat flu.
Don’t Miss: What Antibiotic Is Used To Treat Kennel Cough
What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Antiviral Drugs
Side effects vary for each medication. The most common side effects for oseltamivir are nausea and vomiting. Zanamivir can cause bronchospasm, and peramivir can cause diarrhea. Other less common side effects also have been reported. Your health care provider can give you more information about these drugs or you can check the Food and Drug Administration website for specific information about antiviral drugs, including the manufacturers package insert.
Parents, if your child gets sick with flu, antiviral drugs offer a safe and effective treatment option. For treatment, influenza antiviral drugs should ideally be started within 2 days after becoming sick and taken according to your doctors instructions .
Should I Avoid Antibiotics Altogether
Not at all. Antibiotics can save people’s lives, and if you need them, you should get them as quickly as you can. Since only a doctor can prescribe antibiotics, this means that you should talk to your doctor if you think you might need them .
However, it is the grave over-reliance and inappropriate use of antibiotics that have contributed to the global antibiotic resistance crisis that we face.
A study by the CDC showed that many adults believe that if they are sick enough to see a doctor for a cold, they should get an antibiotic treatment. The study also showed that patients are not aware of the consequences of taking the drugs if they are not needed. And when antibiotics are misused, bacteria can become resistant.
Also Check: Can You Get Rid Of A Uti Without An Antibiotic
How Can I Help My Child
If your child gets the flu:
- Offer plenty of liquids. Fever and appetite loss are common with the flu, and can lead to dehydration.
- Encourage your child to rest in bed or on the couch with a supply of magazines, books, quiet music, and perhaps a favorite movie.
- Dress your child in layers that are easy to add and remove during bouts of chills or fever.
- Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and aches.
- You can give over-the-counter cough or cold medicines to children over 6 years old if your doctor says it’s OK. Follow the package instructions carefully so you give the right amount. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 years old because they can cause bad reactions.
- Running a cool-mist humidifier can help relieve coughs and runny or stuffy noses. Clean it after each use or at least once a day.
- Honey can help loosen a stubborn cough in children older than 12 months of age. Give 12 teaspoons of honey at night. Do not give honey to children under 12 months old.
- For a stuffy nose:
- For babies: Put a few drops of saline into the nose, then gently suction the mucus out with a bulb syringe. Do this no more than 23 times a day so that the inside of your baby’s nose does not get swollen or sore.
- For older kids: Give 2 sprays of saline nose spray 3 times a day.
If your doctor prescribes medicine to ease symptoms, call the pharmacist before you go to pick it up. In a severe flu season, some pharmacies might have trouble keeping the medicines in stock.
Who Should Get An Annual Flu Shot
The Centers for Disease Control recommends the following groups receive an annual flu vaccine shot between November and February :
- All people aged six months and older.
It is especially important for certain individuals at high risk of flu complications and those who come in contact with people at high risk of complications to receive the flu vaccine. These people at high risk include:
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
- People who have chronic medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, kidney and liver disorders and chronic lung diseases.
- People with a weakened immune system, for example, people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, or chronic steroid users.
- Household members and caregivers of patients at risk of complications from the flu.
- Women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season .
- Healthcare workers who come into close contact with patients in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare facilities.
- Infants and children ages six months through 18 years who are taking long-term aspirin therapy. This puts these individuals at risk for experiencing Reye syndrome after flu infection.
- American Indians/Alaska natives.
- People who have close contact with children under five years of age for example, people who live with children, nannies and providers of daycare services.
- People with Class III obesity .
Don’t Miss: Can A Psychiatrist Prescribe Antibiotics
When To Use Antibiotics
Antibiotics are specific for the type of bacteria being treated and, in general, cannot be interchanged from one infection to another. When antibiotics are used correctly, they are usually safe with few side effects. Health care providers are able to assess each patient individually to determine the correct antibiotic, dose and length of treatment.
However, as with most drugs, antibiotics can lead to side effects that may range from being a nuisance to serious or life-threatening. In infants and the elderly, in patients with kidney or liver disease, in pregnant or breastfeeding women, and in many other patient groups, antibiotic doses may need to be adjusted based upon the individual patient. Drug interactions can also be common with antibiotics.
What Are The Benefits Of Antiviral Drugs
Antiviral treatment works best when started soon after flu illness begins. When treatment is started within two days of becoming sick with flu symptoms, antiviral drugs can lessen fever and flu symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by about one day. They also may reduce the risk of complications such as ear infections in children, respiratory complications requiring antibiotics, and hospitalization in adults. For people at higher risk of serious flu complications, early treatment with an antiviral drug can mean having milder illness instead of more severe illness that might require a hospital stay. For adults hospitalized with flu illness, some studies have reported that early antiviral treatment can reduce their risk of death.
Recommended Reading: Antibiotics Used For Tooth Pain
Colds And Flu: Do You Need Antibiotics
- Colds and Flu: Do You Need Antibiotics?
COVID-19 has significantly changed the way we consider even minor coughs and cold-like symptoms. UR Medicine Primary Care‘s Dr. Michael Gavin offers advice on what to look for, when to call to your doctor, and whether or not antibiotics can help.
With winter upon us and another rise in COVID cases, we are seeing more and more coughs and colds. COVID-19 has significantly changed the way we consider even minor coughs and cold-like symptoms. To make matters more complicated, we’re seeing a return of non-COVID viruses such as RSV, Coxsackie , as well as stomach viruses. While there is a significant amount of information on the internet, its hard to determine what to trust.
Hundreds of different viruses can cause colds. Unfortunately, its almost impossible to tell at this time without testing to determine whether someone has COVID, or if they have another viral illness. When in doubt, contact your doctor, or get yourself tested for COVID if you have a fever or higher, chills, severe body aches or fatigue, congestion or runny nose, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, cough, shortness of breath, vomiting, or diarrhea. For accurate updates on COVID, I recommend following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the University of Rochester Medical Center webpages.
If you test negative for COVID and still have cold-like symptoms, remember:
Have a safe and healthy winter!
Viral Infections And Antibiotics
Antibiotics treat bacterial infections, but influenza is caused by a virus, so antibiotics arent effective treatment for the flu. In fact, antibiotics may do more harm than good if you have the flu, says Tyler Policht, MD, a family medicine doctor at Geisinger. They wont help you feel better, and they can cause other health problems.
Thats because viruses infect your body in a different way. Viruses infect your cells and multiply inside of them. For the virus, your cells act as a sort of Trojan horse so they can reproduce. Because they hide in your cells, antibiotics cant affect viruses in the same way.
Also Check: How To Get Antibiotics Without A Prescription
Who Should Take Antiviral Drugs
Its very important that flu antiviral drugs are started as soon as possible to treat patients who are hospitalized with flu, people who are very sick with flu but who do not need to be hospitalized, and people who are at higher risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health, if they develop flu symptoms. Although other people with mild illness who are not at higher risk of flu complications may also be treated early with antiviral drugs by their doctor, most people who are otherwise healthy and not at higher risk for flu complications do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.
Following is a list of all the health and age factors that are known to increase a persons risk of getting serious complications from flu:
- Blood disorders
- Chronic lung disease
- Endocrine disorders
- Kidney disorders
- Metabolic disorders
- People who are obese with a body mass index of 40 or higher
- People younger than 19 years of age on long-term aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications.
- People with a weakened immune system due to disease or medications
Other people at higher risk from flu:
How To Manage Respiratory Infections
Try to avoid them.Wash your hands often and well with plain soap and water. And get these vaccines:
- Flu vaccine. Get this once a year. October or November is best.
- Pneumonia vaccine. When you turn 65, get two shots, a year apart. If you are younger and have heart, lung, or liver disease, diabetes, problems with alcohol, or you smoke, ask your health care provider if you should get the shots.
- Tdap vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis . All adults should get this once. Then get a tetanus-diphtheria booster shot every 10 years. Pregnant women should get a Tdap shot during their third trimester.
Also Check: Are Sinus Infections Contagious After Starting Antibiotics
So What Can I Do About My Cold Or Flu
You mightve heard your doctor use the phrase that a virus has to run its course. This means waiting for your bodys immune system to fight off the viral infection by itself by activating an immune response.
While a virus runs its course there are ways you can speed it up or make it less severe. Getting plenty of bed rest, drinking lots of fluids and taking over-the-counter medication to relieve symptoms will help. This is generally enough for otherwise healthy people. However, in some cases, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to help reduce the severity and length of your illness. This is most effective at the onset of a virus.
If you have a cold or the flu, you should visit your doctor or call 13 HEALTH if you have more serious symptoms, such as trouble breathing, chest pain, a sore throat that hurts to swallow, a cough, headaches, sinus pain, persistent vomiting , fever , feelings of confusion or coloured phlegm.
There are also steps you should take to protect others. If you have a cold, flu or virus, stay at home and avoid contact with others. This means no work, no school and no day care. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or you could use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Make sure you cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or a flexed elbow. Stay 1.5 meters away from others, so you dont spread germs.