There are people who reach for antibiotics at the first sign of an illness, while there are others who will avoid it at all costs. Some will frown upon the practice of antibiotic intake during illnesses, while there are others who approve of it. The difference lies in how well people know the actions of antibiotics.
As a brief history, antibiotics were ushered into mainstream use by Paul Ehrlich and Alexander Fleming. They had this idea of a “magic bullet” that would only target and destroy microbe cells and not the host’s cells. In their quest for this “magic bullet,” they tested hundreds of compounds. They partnered with chemist Alfred Bertheim and bacteriologist Sahachiro Hata in the testing. By the time they got to number “606,” they found a substance that cured syphilis in rabbits. Drug company Hoechst marketed this substance as “Salvarsan.” Later, they reformulated “Salvarsan” and created a less toxic, more soluble drug, dubbed as “Neosalvarsan.” These were the humble beginnings of antimicrobials.
In the 1940’s, the team finally hit the granddaddy of all antibiotics everywhere: Penicillin. Because of this discovery, a new era in medical care was born.
Thanks to Penicillin, people no longer need to suffer massive complications for surgery. Thanks to Penicillin, infections could be staved off or contained within a less amount of time. What used to plague people and cause fatalities in droves now became curable diseases. It was the dawn of great things to come for Medicine, indeed.
And yet, antibiotics are not cure-alls. Here are the risks that you take with antibiotics:
- When you do not finish the whole course of antibiotic dosage, say, a minimum of 7 days, you risk not killing off all the bacteria in your body, and cause them to multiply, and develop a resistance to the specific antibiotic that you didn’t finish.
- Any time bacteria is exposed to certain antibacterials, not all the strains are eliminated. Whatever is left in your body have mutated and gotten resistant to the antibiotic you took. This mutated strain is not just resistant bacteria, if they cause a more virulent and infectious contamination, they could actually be considered “superbugs.”
We’re not trying to scare you into never taking antibiotics. We’re trying to convince you to be judicious in your intake of these.
Because of the grave truth that we presented to you, straight from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC encourages that we all be wise about how to take our antibiotics:
- Never take them for viral infections. Viral infections will never be addressed by antibiotics/antibacterials. So unless a doctor advises that you take it with your condition, stay away.
- Never take them for common and simple ailments. This is a list of ailments never to treat with antibiotics, straight from the CDC:
- The common cold.
- The flu.
- Most coughs and bronchitis.
- Sore throat conditions, except for Strep Throat.
- Some ear infections.
- Take your antibiotics exactly as your doctor advised: Never skip doses, and complete your antibiotic doses. If it says “7 days,” take it for the whole of the 7 days, even when you already feel better.
- Do not buy antibiotics for more than the prescribed duration. If you have, throw out the rest of the doses beyond the prescribed duration. Don’t think about “sayang,” when thinking about throwing out your antibiotics. Think, “Oh crap, I’m helping create the next E.Coli breakout!!!”
- Don’t take medication prescribed for someone else. When experiencing an infection, go to the doctor for your own prescription.
- Don’t force your doctor to give you antibiotics when he explains that yours is a viral condition that does not require antibiotics. Neither should you accept a prescription without double-checking the diagnosis and checking if it is a viral or a bacterial ailment. If you’ve been prescribed antibiotics for a viral disease, get a second opinion, and try to find a doctor in your area who doesn’t get trigger-happy with antibiotics.
The challenge that we face with healthcare in the Philippines is that our doctors seem to be absolutely trigger-happy with prescribing antibiotics. The worst part is that it has created a massive disinformation among the less educated. There are some underprivileged people we know who will take Amoxicillin when they feel very bogged down by their illness, but only take two capsules. They never finish the course, even for the minimum of the drug’s recommended dosage durations. They do this, because they want to save on their medical expenses. They do this because their healthcare providers (most likely those at the provincial Health Centers), have never educated them about the risks of bacterial mutation with improper and unwise antibiotic use.
So here’s a practical rule of thumb when you’re feeling under the weather: As a first line of defense against illness, consider natural methods of immune system-boosting first. This may entail taking a maximum of Vitamin C that your body can take for that day (1000mg only, daily. Doses above that, your body just eliminates it all away.), as well as a minimum of 6 tbsp (2 tbsp 3x a day) of Virgin Coconut Oil, highly studied and proven to reduce viral load in HIV patients. Then if you have a specific condition, such as sore throat, check the Internet for good natural remedies, such as this one. Don’t forget to balance that with your doctor’s opinion on your condition. And level with your doctor that you DO NOT want your bacteria to mutate.
Be responsible with your health, your body, and even the community’s collective health. Take your antibiotics responsibly!