Do You Really Need That Antibiotic? What To Know This Flu Season

Image by Tatjana Zlatkovic

Feeling like you have the sniffles or a cough coming on? Your doctor could be writing you a script faster than you can say ah-choo. A new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association may have some insight into why.

The study found that people are most satisfied with their visit if the doctor prescribes them an antibiotic. Researchers compared the frequency of prescriptions for respiratory tract infections with patient satisfaction in the telemedicine practice—an increasingly popular medical service where the patient is directly connected with a physician over the internet.

The findings? Sixty percent of patients with respiratory tract infections were treated with antibiotics, a number that Kathryn Martinez, Ph.D., says is "far too high."

Patient satisfaction ratings showed that 72 percent of patients gave five-star ratings after a visit when not given a prescription, and 90 percent of patients gave five stars when provided with an antibiotic prescription.

The fear? Doctors may notice a correlation between their ratings and frequency of antibiotic prescriptions, which could make them more likely to prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily. In 2016, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions are uncalled for. The majority of these prescriptions were given for colds, sore throats, and the flu, which are common viral infections that can not be helped by antibiotics. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden, M.D., said, "Antibiotics are lifesaving drugs, and if we continue down the road of inappropriate use, we'll lose the most powerful tool we have to fight life-threatening infections."

Wondering what to ask yourself before you decide whether or not to take antibiotics?

The No. 1 question should be, "Is this antibiotic necessary?" says Denise Pate, M.D. She recommends working with your doctor to determine whether you have a viral or bacterial infection and if you have a viral infection, to focus on symptom relief. Her best advice before taking antibiotics for a bacterial infection? Make sure you understand the potential side effects.

Yes, there are times you will need antibiotics, so if you are on them, take the advice of Will Cole, D.C, IMFCP, and support your body with antioxidants, probiotics, and bone broth—all great ways to build your immune system and support your gut health.

Ideally, you won't need to make this decision, but if you do, we are here to help!

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.

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