Have any of you ever been to the doctor feeling as rough as anything only to be told you’ve got a virus. A VIRUS?! Argh!! That word makes me shudder. When it’s a virus, you can only take standard over-the-counter medications; maybe a bit of paracetamol, some ibuprofen. That sort of thing. You may have wanted a course of antibiotics to make you feel better however, antibiotics do not work on viruses – only on bacterial infections.

So as much as it’s difficult to comprehend, the GP is right and antibiotics shouldn’t be prescribed for viruses. It’s hard to hear if you’re feeling like death warmed up but a fact is a fact.

The problem is when patients are persistent and/or the GP isn’t 100% sure if an illness is bacterial or viral, then antibiotics are often prescribed just on the off-chance that they’re needed. The problem with this is that this practice creates a resistance. If your body doesn’t really need antibiotics but it gets them anyway then it is not going to be so likely to respond to their use when it really does need them. It’s almost like ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ … in a medical sense.

If a GP does deem you need antibiotics, they will usually prescribe a course of 7 – 14 days’ worth of whatever drug they see fit. Some research has indicated that you should only take antibiotics until you feel better. So if you feel better after 3 days, don’t take the remainder. However, this view is not shared by all.

I read a great analogy comparing the use of antibiotics with cleaning a car. If you clean your car and it’s gleaming in 15 minutes, do you carry on cleaning it for another 60? It’s difficult though as we also know and have perhaps memorised advice on the back of antibiotic packages to ‘finish the entire course’. Talk about confusing!!

The problem is that these super-sneaky bacteria change and adapt so quickly (that is the joy of science) that eventually they become immune to every new antibiotic created. There is fear among some people that one day, no antibiotic will be effective.

So less really is more.

Yes, if you are super ill, do seek advice and take a course of antibiotics if it’s recommended. But don’t overuse. Don’t run the risk of antibiotics not doing their thing when you really do need them.

For viruses, stick with over-the-counter alternatives and keep your fluid intake up. And rest. Rest is always a great treatment option!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on antibiotic use.

Stay well!!

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