We don’t need the threat of enterovirus to shudder – cold and flu season is here and doctors’ offices are full of sick people seeking medication salvation.

But, will it come in the form of an antibiotic? In recent years, there’s been a lot of hype around antibiotics overuse and the potential danger it poses.

“Antibiotic use increases the risk of developing antibiotic-resistant infections, which can lead to a new strain of infectious disease that is more difficult to cure and expensive to treat,” explains Carolina Fonseca Valencia, MD, of the Care New England Medical Group. “In addition, antibiotic use can also make patients vulnerable to other types of infections such as clostridium difficile (C.diff), a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea.”

Most common colds are caused by viruses and are not treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are prescribed for:

  • Sinusitis, when symptoms have lasted seven days or more, and there is facial pain and infected discharge from the nose.
  • Sore throat caused by Group A streptococci.
  • Bronchitis caused by Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough).

As with other medical conditions, take the right medication for the ailment. Valeria Fabre, MD, also of Affinity Internal Medicine, says, “Staying healthy in the long term means avoiding antibiotic overuse and possible C.diff infection.” Patients with C.diff can have such complications as:

  • Severe electrolyte disturbance
  • Bowel perforation
  • Hypotension
  • Renal failure
  • In rare cases, death

It is also possible for an individual to have recurrent C.diff infections. “A study in the United States showed that antibiotic use could be (lowered) by 37 percent, which could reduce the number of C.diff infections by 25 percent,” she says. “To help, everyone should maintain good hand hygiene and isolation precautions when sick or around sick individuals.

Find a Physician

Talk to your primary care physician for more information, if you don’t have a primary care physician, you can find one through Care New England’s physician finder at carenewengland.org/physicians.