October is American Pharmacists Month. All month long we are sharing education, debunking myths, offering resources and providing tips that can help improve an individual’s quality of life, from our very own PGY2 Pharmacy Resident, Dr. Hanna Hollingsworth. Hospice of Southern Illinois, in collaboration with SIUE School of Pharmacy, has 1 of 18 total PGY2 Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacy Residency Programs in the country and the only accredited one that is fully funded by a hospice.
Myth #5: Antibiotics will cure the flu and common cold
The dreaded cold and flu; one of the most common reasons for adults to miss work and for children to miss school is the cold and flu virus. Often, a trip to the doctor’s office ensues. Even though it may be tempting to use an antibiotic in hopes of feeling better, antibiotics are actually not effective for treatment of the flu and common cold. This is because the flu and colds are caused by viruses, and antibiotics are only effective for treating infections caused by bacteria. In fact, using antibiotics for these indications are more likely to cause harm than any good.
Potential side effects vary depending on the specific antibiotic, but common side effects include diarrhea and upset stomach. A severe form of diarrhea, called c. diff (clostridium difficile), can also occur due to antibiotic use and is very dangerous and potentially life-threatening, especially to more vulnerable patients such as the elderly. Antibiotics can also have negative interactions with other medications a patient is taking. Taking unnecessary antibiotics also contributes towards the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or “super bugs.”
So what can we do? While we now know that antibiotics are of no use, there are certain things that can make the symptoms more bearable until they self-resolve. Medication options include over-the-counter products for pain relief, congestion, cough, and runny nose. Labels should always be read carefully for ingredients and dose instructions; and if any questions still linger, always ask a pharmacist for further direction. For the flu, the prescription medication Tamiflu can potentially decrease the duration of flu symptoms if taken within 48 hours of flu symptom onset. It is also important to get the flu shot annually to help decrease the risk of contracting the flu.
Although the flu and common cold usually resolve with little consequence, there are times when one should seek medical attention or advice. The CDC recommends seeking medical care when symptoms last 10 days or longer, when symptoms are severe or unusual, and for fever in very young (<3 months) children.
Learn more about our PGY2 Program and all the benefits it offers to individuals, families, and your care team: https://hospice.org/pharmacy-residency-program/.