Don’t Fight Coughs and Colds with Antibiotics

Antibiotics should not be given to people anguishing from coughs and colds.

Not only is antibiotic treatment of coughs and colds ineffective and a waste of money, it can also be harmful. Antibiotics can have side effects which complicate an illness that otherwise would have gotten better by itself.

A growing global problem is the unwarranted use of antibiotics which can also lead to antibiotic resistance.

Because colds and coughs happen regularly, the wrong use of medicine to cure them may cause in a scarcity of important drugs when they are required to remedy life-threatening diseases like pneumonia.

Stopping wrong usage of drugs could lessen costs and ensure a better supply of antibiotics for those children who really need them.

Experts in the field of medicine categorize colds and coughs as upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), which are a regular childhood sickness. Many children below five years old experience three to eight episodes of URTI a year.

Some URTIs, such as otitis media or infection of the middle ear, which can have fatal consequences such as deafness, are treatable with antibiotics.

But the most frequent URTI is the common cold which, although uncomfortable for the child, is not disabling or life-threatening.

Under pressure from families “to do something,” health workers often prescribe antibiotics for coughs and colds. What these parents do not know is that almost all coughs and colds are caused by viruses and thus cannot be treated with antibiotics.

Also, the high incidence of coughs and colds compared with a much smaller incidence of lower respiratory infections suggests that it is not common for coughs and colds to develop into lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

This was proven in studies conducted in Guatemala, Thailand, Kenya, Philippines, Uruguay and Columbia. The researchers have found that for each episode of lower respiratory infection per child per year, four to 14 episodes of URTI were reported.

A number of studies at treating coughs and colds with antibiotics have also been done. Combined results of the studies conducted in Indonesia, Thailand and the United States disclosed that antibiotic treatment of URTIs neither shortened the duration of coughs and cold, nor prevented them from progressing to pneumonia.

A lot of health workers in third world countries prescribe antibiotics for colds and coughs believing that this may help prevent pneumonia from developing.

A health survey conducted by the Geneva-based World Health Organization have shown that 32 percent of cough and cold cases were given antibiotics.

Trained health workers did not always treat according to their diagnosis. Even if a case was recorded as not being pneumonia, antibiotics were sometimes prescribed.

Experts assess the common cold as a spreadable disease for the reason that it is very easy for it to be transferred from person to person thru contaminated droplets of moisture drifting in the air or by infected dust. On the first or second day after exposure, the symptoms progress.

Common cold symptoms normally start with a irritation or roughness in the throat. This is followed immediately by sneezing and by watery fluid discharge from the nose. Generally, there are systematic symptoms like light chilliness, a feeling of unhealthiness and extensive pain in different muscles and body tissues.

Physicians say a person who harbors the infection is able to transmit it to other persons a few hours before his own symptoms begin and for as long as five days after the symptoms have appeared.

Among possible complications of the common cold, doctors say, are otitis media, infection of the nasal sinuses, bronchitis, and even pneumonia.

The viruses themselves are not responsible for these complications; but the irritated tissues of the upper respiratory tract begin to be weak to infections by frequent bacteria continually existent in the air passages, and these are the source of the complications.

Health | Medicine | Viruses | Respiratory

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