CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Tis the season for giving and sharing. But sometimes we share our illnesses, too.
But doctor-prescribed antibiotics might not be your best option.
The flu season is upon us, and patients not only here in South Texas, but also across the country have started gathering in doctors' offices. Keep in mind that the flu and the common cold are caused by viral illness, and antibiotics will do nothing to help.
“Usually for antibiotics, we will prescribe them for urinary tract infections, we will prescribe them for bacterial pneumonias, and for whooping cough," Corpus Christi Medical Center Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Kim Onufrak said.
"Sinus congestion, nasal congestion, just your regular everyday cough, cold, and even the flu, we do not prescribe antibiotics.”
There has been evidence of over-prescribing of antibiotics, and doctors are looking to stop this trend by recommending taking antibiotics only when it is absolutely necessary.
“What we are worried about is antibiotic resistance," Onufrak said. "What antibiotics do is that they kill bacteria, so they kill the good bacteria along with the bad bacteria.
"And what a lot of people will do is take the antibiotic until they feel better, and then they won’t complete the course of the antibiotics, and we start to develop resistance."
Antibiotics can not only wreak havoc on the good bacteria, antibiotics often affect the digestive system.
“Some antibiotics do have side effects; they can give you an upset stomach, they do kill the good bacteria along with the bad," Onufrak said. "Sometimes you can get diarrhea, indigestion, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Doctors are going to educate you on how to take the medication."
When you are prescribed an antibiotic, doctors say it's important you take every pill and never share them with friends or family.
“And do not stop taking it just because you feel better. We want to kill off the infection so you have to complete your full course," Onufrak said. "I see many people that will come in, and they are like oh, I had some leftover antibiotics. You should never ever have any leftover antibiotics. That is how we create antibiotic resistant bacteria."
Once you start to become resistant to one drug, you can become resistant to another drug, and there are only so many antibiotics out there doctors can use to fight off infections.
More than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. every year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result, according to the CDC.
The CDC has launched a campaign to educate the public and doctors.