Antibiotics are effective in treating diseases caused by bacteria: pneumonias, urinary infections, tularemia, diverticulitis, staph infections, meningitis, ear infections, strep throat, skin infections, tuberculosis (although it now takes 3-4 drugs), chlamydia, shigellosis, brucellosis, campylobacter, cholera, clostridium difficile, diphtheria, gonorrhea (more recent resistance to antibiotics), leprosy, pelvic inflammatory disease, Q fever, salmonella, and H. pylori.
Upper respiratory illness season is soon upon us. The all too common "common cold" is almost always caused by a virus, usually a rhinovirus. Antibiotics DO NOT kill, maim, annoy or otherwise hinder viruses. However, mis-prescribed and inappropriately consumed antibiotics DO create a situation where bacteria may become progressively immune to antibiotic killing power: ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE. Then, when you need an antibiotic for one of the serious bacterial illnesses listed above, the antibiotic may have lost its effectiveness.
Take-home message: Don't request, push, cajole, entreat your physician to prescribe an antibiotic for your cold. It won't work and it sets us all up for antibiotic resistance problems in the future.
Sir William Osler, one of the fathers of modern medicine, said it best, "The only way to treat the common cold is with contempt."
Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 38 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans.