How Truly Effective Are Antibiotics?

We are awash in germs. Bacteria, viruses, fungi and others are all organisms that want to invade our bodies and cause infection. But we have evolved a defense against this – our immune system. We also have the advantage of technology, including antibiotics, that we can use to help our immune system in this fight.

Myths

There are several antibiotic and germ myths. The bigTrap_the_Germs one is that antibiotics work against many different types of infections, including the cold. This is not the case: Antibiotics work only against bacteria. Another myth is that all antibiotics kill bacteria. In fact, most antibiotics are bacteriostatic: They only keep bacteria from reproducing, giving our immune systems time to do the killing themselves. Some antibiotics, however, are bacteriocidal, which means they directly kill bacteria.

It said that people can become resistant to antibiotics. In fact, people themselves do not become resistant to antibiotics; it’s the bacterial populations inside of our bodies that become resistant. The caution is not that you will become resistant, but that you can become a breeding ground for resistant species of bacteria. Another myth is that antibiotics weaken the immune system. This is not true. They do not have any effect on the immune system. The immune system, in most cases, still has to fight off the infection. Antibiotics just give the immune system a chance to do so. Some people believe that if an antibiotic has not worked in a specific individual previously, that antibiotic won’t work in the future. That is not necessarily true. The effectiveness of any particular antibiotic is specific to the infection – the strain and the species of bacteria – not the person.

Alternatives

One thing about antibiotics that is not a myth isAntibiotic that they should not be overused: Overuse of antibiotics increases resistance. Therefore, it is important to find alternatives to antibiotics. In other words, it’s important to find ways to minimize infections rather than relying on an
antibiotic whenever you need to. Some alternatives are true and effective. But there are a lot that are myths.

One common myth that is offered as an alternative to treating a bacterial infection with antibiotics is supplements or products that boost the immune system. If you are healthy, well-nourished, and not sick, your immune system will be functioning optimally. There is no way to boost it or increase its activity beyond its already optimal functioning. Only if there is something inhibiting or interfering with the activity of the immune system can you take steps to restore the immune system to its normal functional state.

One product that has been around for years as an alternative to antibiotics is called colloidal silver. This is actually the element silver, in a suspension that you are meant to drink. The claim is that silver has antibacterial activity. Silver is used externally to sterilize, for example, medical equipment – but it is not meant to be taken internally. One alternative, however, is genuine: honey. Honey, while not an antibiotic when taken internally, does have antiseptic properties when used externally. Studies show that using honey as an antiseptic in a wound works quite well – almost as well as pharmaceutical creams that are designed specifically for that purpose.

Hygiene

Hand washing is the single most effective behavior to prevent getting an infection, such as the cold, flu, or more serious bacterial infections. This is especially true if you are exposed to people who you know to be sick.
Health-care workers, for example, especially need to wash their hands.
What about antibacterial soaps? These are very common on the market these days.
What makes a soap antibacterial is that it contains a chemical, the most common one being triclosan, that has an antibacterial effect. But in 2007, a systematic review concluded that antibacterial soaps containing triclosan are not more effective than regular soap. However, there are some studies that show that it may be more effective if it is combined with other antibacterial agents. The jury is still out on whether we can develop an antibacterial soap that has advantages.

We do need to take reasonable measures to stay hygienic and free from infection. Knowing when to use an antibiotic is also very helpful, as is knowing when not to use an antibiotic. While basic hygiene is good, scientists are actually considering the possibility that our modern society may in fact be too hygienic for our own good. A little exposure to germs may not be a bad thing.

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Aachoo!!!….Bless You

SneezeThe common cold is, well, common. We all get it, we want to prevent it, and we want to shorten its duration. Therefore, it’s no surprise that myths about the common cold are just as common as the cold itself.
Probably the biggest myth is that cold weather causes the cold: You can’t get a cold from being exposed to cold weather or being wet or being out in the rain. You need to get exposed to a cold virus in order to catch the cold. However, there’s a separate question of whether being cold or wet makes you more susceptible to catching the virus if you are exposed to it. Largely speaking, the evidence for that is negative. But it’s still slightly controversial.
It is generally recognized that the cold is more common in the winter. This is probably mostly due to the fact that in the winter months, kids are back at school. In essence, kids and their less than ideal hygiene, make schools perfect breeding grounds for cold viruses. The viruses then spread to the rest of the population through multiple pathways.

Supplements

What about vitamin C? You may have heard for years that taking vitamin C can either treat or prevent the common cold. But it’s been researched for decades now and not shown much impact. Does it prevent you from catching the cold? The answer is very clearly a no. What about decreasing the severity of the cold once you catch it? There, the answer is no as well. What about reducing the duration of the cold with vitamin C? Here the evidence is not as conclusively negative. It still is trending negative, but there is some weak evidence for a slight decrease in the duration of a cold by about a half a day – if you took vitamin C at the very beginning of the cold or were already taking it before you got the cold.
Herbal remedies have become popular for the common cold. A few years ago, Echinacea was the most common herbal remedy. But extensive clinical research in people with Echinacea clearly shows no benefit for either prevention or reduction of severity. What about other types of supplements – vitamins and minerals to help boost your immune system? It turns out that there’s really no theoretical basis for the notion that taking a short-term supplement will improve or increase your immune activity and make it more robust or better able to fight off a cold. There is no evidence to show that taking any other multivitamin or supplements reduces either the risk of developing a cold or its severity or duration.

PreventionHandCleaning

Let’s talk a bit about preventing the common cold. The most effective measure for preventing a cold is to avoid getting exposed to the virus in the first place. Keep your hands hygienically clean with the use of sanitizers which you can carry on you wherever you go. That will clear the viruses or bacteria off your skin before you have a chance to infect yourself with them. You should also avoid exposure to people known to be having the flu symptoms, especially in the first 3 days of their illness when they have a fever. Refrain from making facial contact with your hands when you are sick or when you are around other people who are displaying similar symptoms. You also may avoid crowds when you are feeling under the weather. That way, you’ll do everyone a favor by not spreading the virus around. When you do have to sneeze or cough, do it into your elbow or a paper towel that can be disposed off.                                                                                                                                           Dry air can also dry out the nasal mucosa making it more vulnerable to viruses. Using a humidifier – if the air in your environment or in your home is too dry – may actually reduce your risk of getting a cold in addition to making you more comfortable. Do not smoke: A history of smoking may increase the duration of a cold by an average of 3 days.
Sleep deprivation generally runs down the body and makes you more susceptible to infections, including the cold. Finally, recent evidence suggests vitamin D may be helpful in preventing the cold.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of the common cold? Most of the symptoms of the cold are actually not caused by the virus itself; they are caused by your immune system fighting off the infection. Should you treat the symptoms of a cold, or by doing so, are you suppressing your immune system’s attempt to fight it off? If you reasonably treat your symptoms, your body can still fight off the infection without any problem. Are there any over-the-counter medications you should keep on hand for when you get a cold? Certainly, you can have acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which means aspirin, ibuprofen, or paracetamol. They will treat a fever, if you’ve got one. They are also analgesics, so they can reduce sinus pain, general discomfort, or the pain of a sore throat. What about cough suppressants? Interestingly, a lot of common products will mix together a cough suppressant and an expectorant. That makes no sense when you think about it. If you are having a somewhat productive cough and you want to get the phlegm up, then take an expectorant. But over-the-counter cough suppressants are really not very effective in suppressing a cough.
You can also adjust your behavior in order to reduce the symptoms of a cold. Drinking a lot of fluids will help prevent dehydration, including that of the mucous membranes. If you can eat, that will make you feel better as well. A good night’s rest is also important in fighting off the infection, but there’s no reason to stay bedridden. Finally, avoid smoking or exposure to smoke, as that can irritate and dry the membranes and extend the duration of symptoms in a cold.

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