Sunday, November 29, 2015

Have a pill . . . or not.

It's so widely known now that overuse of antibiotics has created a scary situation. More than one scary situation, actually: Not only has it led to drug-resistant superbugs, but it could permanently destroy a person's good bacteria.

Still, so many doctors keep prescribing them for viral infections--or, more accurately, infections that are far more likely to be viral in nature than bacterial. Antibiotics do nothing for viral infections. Why do they persist in doing this?

The most common excuse I've read is that patients expect a pill, usually an antibiotic. So what? Is there something in the Hippocratic Oath that says "Give 'em what they want?"

Sick all week with a sore throat and sinus infection, and beginning to develop a cough, I woke up feeling so thoroughly infected yesterday morning that I visited an urgent care center to have my lungs listened to and get an opinion on whether or not to go to my daughter's for our family Thanksgiving dinner.

The Physician's Assistant, who looked all of 18 and sounded so cheerful she practically chirped, offered me an antibiotic. If she'd given me a good reason why I should take it, I might have. But she didn't. She said, "Well, you came here, so that means you want to take something, right?" Wrong.

Later, I remembered she was the one who offered me an antibiotic for a rash on my eyelid that turned out to be shingles.

It bothers me that this obviously goes on all the time there, and probably in countless other facilities across the country. Perhaps the only way to stop it, or at least slow it down, is for the medical consumers to speak up. Of course we don't want to turn down antibiotics when we really need them. But when they're offered, it wouldn't hurt to ask why.


crystal said...

I hope you're feeling better now. It is a scary situation. I remember noticing this even at the vet - she would give antibiotics even when she thought what was wrong was viral because she feared a secondary bacterial infection. I've seen a lot about it in the news lately ...

Susan said...

I'll bet that's a good article, Crystal. I'll read it for sure. I like The Atlantic.

After posting this blog entry, I went to the pharmacy and picked up the antibiotics. My sinus infection had made a downward migration into my larynx (lost my voice) and bronchial tubes, and I didn't want it to go any farther and end up in my lungs.

We do walk a tightrope with these things.

Indigo Bunting said...

Oh my gosh. Hope you're feeling better and am totally with you on this WHY thing. Scary that people can prescribe just because someone wants something.