Many people believe that antibiotics speed recovery from a cold and the flu, and doctors write almost 50 million prescriptions for these and related respiratory infections each year.
Bad idea. Why? Because antibiotics work only against bacterial infections, and colds and flu are viral. Taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed not only unnecessarily exposes you to their side effects, diarrhea, nausea, and potentially serious allergic reactions, but also can breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria among the broader population, undermining the effectiveness of the medications when they really are needed.
Doctors know that antibiotics don’t help with a cold or the flu. And though efforts are afoot to reduce unnecessary use, many doctors still prescribe the drugs because patients often ask, and because it’s faster and easier to write a prescription than it is to explain why it isn’t needed.
CR’s Take: If you have a cold or the flu, don’t ask for antibiotics, and don’t take them even if offered unless your doctor has specific reasons in your case.
Source: Consumer Reports magazine January 2018
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