Does your cough or that congested nose need an antibiotic?
Does your cough, or that congested nose need an antibiotic? Over the years of my practicing Pediatric
medicine, I have taken care of many a child, and infant, with that annoying cough, or runny nose, that keep
parents, and children alike awake all night. This cough and runny nose, may then be passed on to others in
the home, making it all the more challenging for the household.
Most of the time these symptoms are caused by the common cold virus circulating in our environment; namely: Rhinovirus. Because of this, we usually recover without any marked intervention, and it's best to treat the symptoms supportively, as we allow our bodies to recuperate.
We can do this with homemade remedies such as honey + lemon syrup, if having no allergies, and if children are over 1 year old. A good amount of fluid to help with that itchy throat will also help as well. A range of healthy foods will also boost our immunity. Lastly, a humidifier in the bedroom especially at night, to provide moisture to the air, can also stop that dry and annoying cough from disturbing our sleep.
So, when in this case, would a parent's concern warrant the use of antibiotics. To tell you the truth.....Very little of the time, as antibiotics are not targeted for viruses, but rather bacteria.
It would usually only be needed, if our symptoms have escalated, and our cold symptoms have turned into for example, an ear infection (as our noses have connection via the Eustachian tube of the ear, and fluid can accumulate leading to inner ear inflammation/infections). Of note, not all ear infections; need antibiotics either, as not all fluid accumulation is that of bacteria...but those details I will share on another day.
An additional reason, for the usage of antibiotics for the common cold would be if our symptoms in general have lasted for more than 10 days; and one has now a sinusitis or infection within the sinus passages; which is usually accompanied by a headache, fever, nasal pressure and/or a marked change in the consistency of the nasal mucus; sometimes being very thick cand cloudy. This also for that matter, , is not so very common in infancy, but moreso, the case in older children and adults, due to the development of the sinus passages.
Now when mucus is yellow or green or other ranges of color, do we need an antibiotic then? The color of the mucus in itself, is actually not the "must have" indicator for an antibiotic and should not be an automatic reason to receive antibiotic as well. Color change is actually a part of the natural process of fighting off an infection, but this can escalate, and if so should be paid attention to.
Further, common colds, can occasionally turn into chest symptoms warranting a listen to our lungs, for the uncommon event of that rattling cough turning in a pneumonia.
With that in mind, please know an antibiotic should not be the first choice, when having a common cough, or congestion, as it was not meant for these early viral symptoms. There is also increasing antibiotic resistance in our world, due in part to antibiotic over usage, and if this remains, it will be very difficult to treat the infections that really warrant their use.
Keeping ourselves healthy, is the best way to fight off these occasional viral infections. Do you need that antibiotic when a cough or sniffles hits? Most of the time, no. However, if feeling uncomfortable with you or your loved one's condition, always consult a medical professional.
What are you doing to keep yourself healthy, and informed today?