Cold and flu season is upon us, which means it's common to catch the common cold. Being sick sucks. There's no doubt about it. But there's one way that colds are being treated that might end up doing more damage than good.
Even though health experts have been asking for people to stop taking antibiotics to fight a cold, antibiotic use in the treatment of colds is still high. A study published in JAMA states that 30% of antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary. This accounts for almost 47 million prescriptions each year.
The majority of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions were to treat respiratory illnesses such as colds, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, and sore throats — all of which do not respond to antibiotics.
Surprisingly, doctors are part of this problem. Sometimes doctors will prescribe antibiotics for colds, even though they know that antibiotics won't do anything, just because the patients ask for them.
A World Health Organization survey found that 81% of respondents were prescribed antibiotics by a doctor or nurse. Additionally, 64% of survey respondents thought that antibiotics could be used in the treatment of colds even though antibiotics do not treat viruses.
Additionally, the amount of antibiotics a person will take throughout one's life is astounding. By the time the average American reaches adulthood, they will have taken 10 to 20 courses of antibiotics. This equals one dosage of antibiotics every one to two years during childhood alone.
The over-use of antibiotics has lead to the creation of antibiotic resistant "super bugs." So the more people take unnecessary antibiotics, the more likely we are to create antibiotic resistant bacteria.
And it's all because of antibiotic over-use. According to a report commissioned by the UK government, "Resistance has increasingly become a problem in recent years because the pace at which we are discovering novel antibiotics has slowed drastically, while antibiotic use is rising."
And if that wasn't bad enough, antibiotics don't discriminate when choosing which bacteria to kill, which means you can end up killing the bacteria you want and don't want to get rid of. Per Martin Blaser, the director of the Human Microbiome Program at the New York University School of Medicine, the human body is “somewhere between 70 and 90 percent bacteria.” Yikes!
While there's no cure for the common cold, there are many at-home remedies that work better than antibiotics. For instance, Web MD recommends advocates resting and cutting stress at the first early signs of a cold. And there's no way you can create or spread a super-nap from too much sleep!