Don’t Put Your Faith in Antibiotics

This time of year sees an uptick in people who present to the doctor’s office for one reason, they want an antibiotic. It’s amazing how people think antibiotics are the cure for all their ills, even though antibiotics are only useful in treating bacterial infections.

People don’t want to hear how their viral illness won’t respond to an antibiotic. They don’t care that at the rate things are going, antibiotic overuse is going to make most antibiotics ineffective leading to deaths from minor bacterial infections. They certainly have no interest in treating themselves by increasing fluids, staying home and resting. No. An antibiotic prescription is the expected parting gift of the office visit and without it, well, try the Emergency Department. Maybe they’ll give you one to shut you up and get you out.

I think it’s a type of sickness hysteria fueled by the internet and symptom checkers. Have a sore throat? It must be strep! A stuffy nose for a week? Sinusitis! A cold that’s made you tired and run down? Bronchitis!

Problem is 85%-95% of sore throats aren’t strep, 90-98% of sinus infections are caused by viruses, and most upper respiratory infections aren’t bacterial. Antibiotics will do nothing for these infections. The bitter truth is that it takes time to recover from an illness. Colds, bronchitis and sore throats caused by viruses may last two weeks or more, time we’re not prepared to spend taking care of ourselves. It’s easier to throw a pill at it.

Instead of rushing to the doctor’s office (and exposing yourself to whatever germs are lurking there), the next time you’re sick, stay home and take care of yourself. A tincture of time is remarkably effective in curing much of what ails us and it’s safer and cheaper than an antibiotic.

Remember, antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.
No Antibiotics African American Poster

Pray Rain

Recently I read an article about a Pray Rain Journal. Basically you write a daily page about your ideal life as if it’s already happening. Here is my Pray Rain Journal for the healthcare system.

Today we were overwhelmed writing prescriptions for acupuncture, massages, and hypnotherapy. Now that insurance pays for this, our providers and patients turn to alternative medicine rather than narcotics. Not once during this entire day did a patient receive a prescription for oxycontin, vicodin, or percocet for chronic, non malignant pain.

Our diabetic patients came in armed with questions and information. They all had their blood glucose logs and their food journals. There was time to review them and work with the patient to make good choices to improve their blood sugar control. They checked their feet daily so it was another month without foot ulcers. Several of our patients had lost weight as they’d instituted an exercise program. No one gained weight today.

Our hypertension patients took their medications faithfully and monitored their blood pressure. A few of them had experimented with biofeedback and meditation as a way to control their stress.  They all knew the correct way to take a blood pressure and insisted it be done that way, politely, of course.

Our patients with mental illnesses continued to work with their therapists and psychiatrists to gain insight into their problems and work through them. Everyone who needed a referral to our therapist, got one, and got in the same day. Our patients on medication acknowledged the role of talk therapy in their recovery. None of them self medicated with tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs.

People with coughs, colds, and sore throats came in without the expectation of an antibiotic prescription and left armed with self care tips and the knowledge that their illness would get better with time. They all promised to take time off from work to get well, rather than return to work and sicken their coworkers. 

No one left our office today with a prescription without knowing what it was for, what the side effects were, and what they should look for in order to judge it’s effectiveness.

My coworkers and I had a great day of teamwork as we tried to meet our patient’s needs in a polite, respectful way. At the end of the day we all went home tired, but we felt good about the job we’d done.