Whether a skeptic or a fanatic, home remedies and miracle treatments for everything from weight loss to cancer is at our fingertips. Healthcare professionals carry the burden of educating the consumer on fact versus fiction, especially when it comes to managing expectations for fast relief from common illness by using antibiotics.
“Most people go to see their healthcare provider when they are sick, and they expect to get something that will make them better,” stated Danielle Rathjen, nurse practitioner at Tschetter and Hohm Clinic in Huron, SD. “For certain illnesses, such as the common cold and bronchitis, the antibiotics patients frequently request will not help them fight the virus that is causing their symptoms.”
Rathjen often recommends over-the-counter medications or the “tried-and-true” home remedies including warm tea with honey, saline rinses and saltwater gargles to relieve symptoms of these common viruses.
“It takes time to educate patients, but I have found patients are often happy to know they are not being given antibiotics unnecessarily. As more and more antibiotics are prescribed, our bodies can become less sensitive to these medications and they may not be effective in the future,” added Rathjen.
A laboratory test is the only sure way to determine if an infection is bacterial or viral. Elliot Hinricher, RPh, at Huron Regional Medical Center explained, “When your healthcare provider is able to identify what bacteria are growing from a laboratory sample, they also need to make sure you are on the best antibiotic to fight those bacteria. If your physician does not think you need an antibiotic, do not pressure them into prescribing one for you. Trust their professional judgement.“
Avoiding unnecessary use of antibiotics, receiving appropriate immunizations and practicing proper hygiene provide protection against catching or spreading bacterial and viral infections.
“After 41 years of medical practice, the rise in drug resistant bacteria has been overwhelming. Simple infections can be more worrisome and problematic than ever before,” Dr. Robert Hohm, internal medicine physician at Tschetter and Hohm Clinic stated. “Precautions can be made to reduce the spread of infections such as hand washing, covering coughs, protecting wounds with appropriate bandages. Getting preventive immunizations such as the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines can help reduce the spread of infections in our community and in the nation as well.”
Complications from influenza can lead to pneumonia, which has a greater risk for mortality. Influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone over 6 months of age and pneumococcal vaccination is recommended for children under 2 years old and adults 65 years or older.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 2017-2018 flu season was rated as high severity with record-breaking levels of influenza-like illness and hospitalization rates. As is typical in most seasons, adults 65 years and older had the highest hospitalization rates. In addition, the proportion of deaths attributed to influenza-associated mortality was at or above the epidemic threshold for 16 consecutive weeks.
Antibiotics are a precious resource and preserving their usefulness will require cooperation and engagement by all. Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (QIN) is partnering with practitioners, pharmacists and system leadership as well as consumers to slow antibiotic-resistance bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections. Learn more about the available outreach, education and technical assistance for antibiotic stewardship, immunizations and infection prevention on the Great Plains QIN web page.