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Being Antibiotic Aware

As we head into the season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, colds, flu, viruses, and bronchitis, let's talk about being Antibiotic Aware.

Antibiotics save lives, but any time they are used, they can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria no longer responds to the drugs designed to kill them. Antibiotics kill both the bad and good bacteria (we need the good bacteria to keep our bodies functioning normally). Use antibiotics ONLY when necessary to reduce the spread of superbugs and protect us from the side effects of antibiotics.

Let's talk about when antibiotics are necessary and when they are not as we head into winter.

We all sort of expect to get a cold or sore throat sometime during the winter season ... so what should we be on the lookout for?

Common colds can be caused by 200 different viruses and is one of the most frequent reasons students miss school and adults miss work. We all know how that feels — achy, runny nose, congestion, and cough. BUT ... antibiotics do not cure a cold and will not make you feel better even if you have that yellow or green stuff coming out of your nose or in your cough. Respiratory viruses (colds) will go away in a week or two. If these symptoms last more than 10 days, you should seek medical attention.  

Sore throats are usually caused by viruses as well (like the ones that caused your cold when you immune system was weakened, and you were exposed to that sick person sitting next to you last winter) and do not need antibiotic treatment. Along with that sore throat, you may be sneezing or coughing, have watery eyes and mild head and body aches with a runny nose and low fever (less than 100 F). Sore throats may also be caused by allergies, dry air, pollution and primary/secondary smoke.

Some sore throats are caused by bacteria (Strept A), and these DO NEED an antibiotic as you may have red and swollen tonsils (sometimes with white patches or tiny red spots), high fever (greater than 101F), nausea and vomiting, swollen lymph nodes, severe head and body aches and maybe a rash.

  • 20-30 of every 100 sore throats in children is strept
  • 5-15 of every 100 sore throats in adults is strept

Improving the way we take antibiotics to keep us healthy now, helps fight antibiotic resistance and ensures that life-saving antibiotics will be available in the future.

So, wash those hands, cover those coughs, stay home when you are ill, and get the recommended vaccines this cold and flu season.

Jayne Dwyer-Reff, RN,
School Nurse