I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but our modern day society has become addicted to quick fixes.
Rather than asking the tough questions to get to the bottom of what’s really wrong, we’d rather opt for the easy way out. We simply look at the symptoms, then prescribe something to alleviate them. All the while, we tend to ignore the underlying causes which, yep, you guessed it, could cause more symptoms in the future.
A great example of this behaviour is our use of antibiotics.
I’ve had many viruses over the years and have visited my local healthcare professionals countless number of times. The experience was rather transactional, just like when you go to the local supermarket - I was sick, so then I would pay them to prescribe something to make me feel better.
Whenever I’d have a sore throat, the doctor would simply tell me to get some antibiotics. Intellectually, I knew that antibiotics were supposed to heal bacterial infections, not viruses. But I’d still take them as I believed that they’d make me feel better afterwards (I don’t know if that’s because they actually worked, or simply because they had a placebo effect).
One day, I had a sore throat and decided to go to a different doctor. I was looking forward to getting some advice on which antibiotics to take this time round so that I could say goodbye to my throat infection and get back to my daily life.
It wasn’t to be though as the doctor had other words of advice, which left me stunned and infuriated.
“Eugene, the human body is a marvellous thing. You just have a virus, so I’m not going to prescribe you any antibiotics. Just get lots of sleep, keep up your fluids and trust in your body to heal itself. If things get any worse, come back and see me straight away.”
That was it? I travelled all the way to your clinic only to leave empty handed?
Looking back, I’m glad that he didn’t cave in to my demands and stood firmly by his beliefs.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses like colds, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections. Instead of fighting viral infections, antibiotics in fact fight those of a bacterial nature.
At the very least, taking antibiotics in the wrong situations will be as if you have taken nothing at all - you will still feel sick and will continue to infect those around you. However, it can also cause a whole host of unnecessary side effects such as:
- Severe diarrhea - potentially fatal to both children and adults
- Untreatable gonorrhea - which is linked to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, tubal infertility and neonatal eye infections
- Asthma - in the children of mothers who took antibiotics during their pregnancy
What’s worse is that if you take antibiotics to treat a viral infection, they will attack the beneficial bacteria in your body. While wiping out all of your good bacteria sounds bad enough, they can eventually become antibiotic-resistant. Once they have developed these new properties, they can then pass them onto harmful bacteria causing many antibiotics to become redundant.
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should never take antibiotics ever again. It just means that antibiotics aren’t always the answer, and that you need to be aware of the situations of which you should actually be taking them. Rather than diagnosing yourself, always consult a trusted healthcare professional, and if you are ever in doubt, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion!