If you get a sore throat or bronchitis and your doctor recommends an antibiotic, ask for a different treatment. Only one out of ten people with a sore throat will respond to an antimicrobial. And if you have bronchitis, the results are even worse - it never responds to an antibiotic. All you're likely to get in that situation is antibiotic resistance, which means you'll really be in trouble when you really need an antibiotic.
According to recent research, doctors prescribe antibiotics for patients complaining of sore throats and bronchitis far too often. While research is still preliminary and has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, analysis of two national databases indicate that doctors are prescribing antibiotics for nearly 60% of sore throat patients. That's according to Jeffrey Linder, MD of Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Only one cause of sore throats responded to antibiotics - those cases caused by the pathogen group A streptococcus. You probably know this as strep throat. But strep causes only about 10% of all sore throat cases.
Things look even worse for bronchitis. According to Linder, doctors prescribe antibiotics for 73% of bronchitis cases. This is shocking! That's because bronchitis is never caused by something that antibiotics can relieve.
Just recently, the CDC finally warned that antibiotic resistance is becoming a major problem (I warned you about it years ago). The CDC admits that this problem has been fueled by overuse of antibiotics when they aren't really necessary. Linder says that doctors need to take the lead in stemming the problem by explaining the risks to their patients. He says,"For individual patients, the compelling reason not to take antibiotics is they're not going to help you and there's a very real chance they're going to hurt you."
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But patients can take charge of their health too. Linder examined data from the annual National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys and found that from 1997 to 2010, there were approximately 92 million visits nationally for sore throats. About 60% of these patients received an antibiotic prescription when they didn't need one. Linder believes patients should be more informed about appropriate treatment options and when they actually need to seek medical care.
Fortunately, he believes the data shows that there is a trend in patients being more selective. Sore throats as a proportion of primary care visits fell from 7.5% in 1997 to 4.3% in 2010. However, the number of people making visits for bronchitis rose from 1.1 million in 1996 to 3.4 million in 2010. So better understanding is clearly needed for that disease.
When antibiotics won't be effective (and, in most cases, even when they will be), try a natural solution instead. There are numerous plant-based solutions for bronchitis and sore throats. Here are some simple solutions that I've found to work well:
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) can be effective for lung problems. NAC is particularly useful for lung and respiratory tract issues, including bronchitis. Numerous studies have found that it improves bronchial and lung function, reduces cough, and improves blood oxygen saturation. Compared to a placebo, NAC has been shown to keep chronic bronchitis from worsening and to improve symptoms. Try taking 200 mg of NAC three times a day. You can find NAC in most health food stores and online.
Throat Coat tea from Traditional Medicinals also might be helpful. It's high in slippery elm and licorice - two herbs that soothe the throat. Along with gargling warm salt water, drink three to four cups of this tea a day. Be sure to follow the directions and steep the tea for at least 15 minutes.
Using these along with your regular supplement regimen (including a strong multivitamin like Healthy Resolve) and a diet high in vegetables and fruit can help you avoid going to the doctor for pesky sore throats and bronchitis.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Smith, Michael."Inappropriate Antibiotic Use Still High," MedPage Today, Oct 3, 2013.