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What You Need to Know About Flu and Antibiotics

antibioticsIt’s true that different strains of the flu can strike at just about any time—but seasonal flu is known to be highest in the winter months, specifically from December to February. Naturally, parents and family members are more concerned during this time, as the national number of flu cases reaches its annual peak.

Prevention is obviously the best way to beat the flu, and there are many different measures you can take to keep it at bay. One of the most important preventative measures, if not the most important, is a flu vaccination.

However, if you or someone in your family does come down with influenza, you may feel that antibiotics are necessary. Many people believe that antibiotics are a necessary and routine part of flu treatment, or even treatment of the common cold.

This is a misconception. Antibiotics are not effective against cold and flu viruses in and of themselves. They do not alleviate symptoms or lead to a faster recovery. In fact, antibiotics put considerable strain on the body and can actually make the patient more uncomfortable.

What antibiotics do counteract are bacterial infections. Often times, a prolonged case of cold or flu means that a bacterial infection has taken hold in the patient’s stomach or respiratory tract. This is when your urgent care doctor or nurse will consider antibiotic medication as part of your treatment.

There’s another reason to education ourselves and others about what antibiotics can and cannot do. The medical community has now recognized that using antibiotics in cases where it isn’t entirely necessary may cause bacteria to become increasingly resistant to antibiotics in general. In time, bacterial infections resulting from flu or cold viruses could mutate to the point where they are completely immune to antibiotic treatment—and this wouldn’t be happy news for people suffering from those types of infections.

For this reason, most qualified medical teams will not prescribe antibiotics unless there is very strong evidence that the patient is suffering a bacterial infection. In terms of the flu, bacterial infection may be a factor if symptoms persist more than two weeks.

The Importance of Vaccinations

Top medical establishments—including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Mayo Clinic overwhelmingly name flu vaccinations as the most effective way to prevent flu from reaching you and your loved ones.

There are many different strains of influenza, and medical researches conduct extensive research every year as to which strains will be the most common in a particular flu season. Vaccinations are produced based on this research, and are widely available at urgent care clinics in sprays as well as shots. An effective flu vaccine causes the body to develop antibodies specific to those strains of the flu. This greatly reduces the possibility that the virus will take hold, even in the event of repeated exposure.

There are different variations on the flu vaccines, and most of them protect against three or four strains of the virus.

Antibiotics are extremely useful when flu or cold leads to bacterial infection. But when bacteria is not present, antibiotics will only put unnecessary strain on the body. Vaccinations, however, are a highly effective barrier.

This flu season, as in every flu season, think prevention! Thanks for reading, and please write your questions or comments below.

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