This is the season of “sinus infections” as patients like to call them. Regardless of the actual problem, a majority of people think they have a sinus infection and need an antibiotic. Often people come to my office expecting an antibiotic. Some leave educated about why I don’t want to give one and why they don’t need one and are glad. Others leave angry because, despite my medical training and knowing when to avoid antibiotics, this is what they think they need. I will even have some who go straight to one of the many hundred walk-in clinics who will “just give me what I want.” It’s one of the most frustrating things for me to treat because people don’t like or won’t accept the real treatment.
If you have chosen to trust me as your physician, I promise to make decisions that I think are the safest choice for your health.
When it comes to an upper respiratory infection, yes, I know you feel bad. I’m on day 6 of my own, but improving daily.
I know you “don’t have time” to be sick. Who does?
I know you’re travelling to see family. Great! Have fun!
I know you’d love to be able to “stop it before it gets worse.” Well, trust me, if I could do that, I’d be a kabajillionnaire.
I wish I could stop a cold, but I can’t. So, because I absolutely want you to feel attended to, I want to take a second to educate you. Most of the illnesses we experience are viruses that cause a plethora of symptoms, including, but not limited to watery, itchy eyes, dry mouth, sore throat, runny/congested nose, pressure in the face and forehead, cough, wheeze, fever, laryngitis, discolored mucus. A virus like this has no cure. There is no treatment for a common cold virus and there are more than 200 different types of viruses that can be implicated to cause these symptoms. I’m famous for saying, “there are two things that can cure you, God and time, and I am neither one of those.” That’s the truth. A virus will go away, usually, with rest and taking care of yourself. The cough and cold industry is a billion dollar one because of these symptoms and because there’s nothing else you can do. Well, almost nothing. I do have an ability to give a really good cough medication by prescription if needed! How do you know it’s a virus? A good clue is this: if your spouse or kid or friend or co-worker had it first, and now you have it, it’s a virus. That’s how they spread. They go from one person to the next…and you can’t stop it. Read again, I, your physician, can not stop it. Neither can any other healthcare provider.
I can’t really tell you when giving antibiotics became the popular thing to do. I’m not sure when this trend started, but I can tell you honestly that it has become one of the most dangerous medical treatments out there. Antibiotics are used to treat bacteria, not viruses; yet, people still think they need one when they get a cold, regardless of what I tell them. There is a lot of harm to be done in taking medication you don’t need. Antibiotics kill the good bacteria in your own body, which can lead to a lot of imbalance in your usually well-regulated gut. They can also cause commonly treated bacteria to mutate and form a resistance to being killed. There are already major players in this game, as many of you have likely heard of MRSA. There are others that are even stronger than MRSA and some that have no treatment because of the overuse of antibiotics in our world. It is estimated that more than 700,000 people die annually in the world due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If we continue to use a medication when we don’t need it, then we will not have the medication when we do.
The CDC recently had a great article that I put on my FB page about how to know if you need one or not. I like it because it’s simple and I wish more people would really accept it. Truthfully, think back to being a kid…did your parents really take you to the doctor for a cold, or did you just miss a day or two of school and get through it? But even though most people like everything to happen in the snap of a finger, it’s going to take at the very least 7-10 days before you start to feel ok again. Be patient, drink plenty of water, invest in some good medication…and suck it up, buttercup. If, however, it’s been more than two weeks or you have trouble breathing or you run a continuous fever…that’s a different story. There are exceptions to every rule…
Ultimately, let’s just all try to use our common sense and give God the time to help your body heal itself.