10 Reasons Why You Don’t Need a Z-pack (antibiotics) For Your Cold

January 20th, 2016

It’s definitely the common cold, bronchitis and flu season in most of the US now, with temperatures dipping below freezing.  Most of these illnesses are caused by viruses.  Antibiotics such as “Z-packs” or azithromycin help with bacterial infections, but not viral infections.  In fact, they can even make viral infections worse.  Here are some other reasons you should not ask your healthcare provider for antibiotics when you start having cold symptoms.

  1. Widespread use of antibiotics is leading to resistant bacteria.  When you take an antibiotic for a viral illness, you may be creating resistant bacteria in your own body.  These can then spread to your family members resulting in more difficult treatments and possibly hospitalization.
  2. Everyone has a mix of good and bad bacteria in their bodies.  You may actually kill off your good bacteria unnecessarily and allow for bad bacteria to take over.  One such “bad” bacteria called C. difficile can cause serious life-threatening diarrheal infections that can be deadly.
  3. Most colds and flus will go away on their own within a week.  You can help improve how you feel by getting enough rest, staying hydrated, and taking over the counter medications for symptom relief.
  4. Antibiotics have side effects such as diarrhea, rash, abdominal pain, and some life threatening allergic reactions which could land you in a hospital or back at your primary care provider’s office.  Many of these can be idiosyncratic, meaning you may have taken the antibiotic before and had no issues but you may develop side effects if you take the same antibiotic the next time.
  5. Antibiotics will not shorten the duration of a cold or flu.  You may have been given a “Z-pack” by your health care provider before, but that may have been for different circumstances.  Also, many healthcare providers feel pressured by patients to give them something for the visit, usually a prescription.  Had the healthcare provider just given you a placebo (sugar pill) would you have gotten better just as fast?  For the common cold caused by a virus, you probably would have!
  6. If you are otherwise healthy, avoiding your primary care provider’s office when you have a cold can prevent you from getting sicker.  The doctor’s office waiting room is filled with people who may have contagious diseases.  Save yourself the money on the co-pay and risk of exposing yourself to sicker people.
  7. There are better medications for cold and flu symptoms.  If you need to find out more information, you should feel free to ask your healthcare professional.
  8. Antibiotics can have negative interactions with many medications and medical conditions.  In particular, antibiotics reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills and patches, meaning women are more likely to get pregnant.  Azithromycin, which is found in the “Z-pack” has been shown to cause fatal irregular beating of the heart as well, especially in people with heart disease or history of heart attacks.
  9. Antibiotics and the visit to see your healthcare provider can increase your medical costs especially if you have a high deductible plan.  Save yourself some money and use the money on over the counter medications which will make you feel better.
  10. Allow your trained healthcare provider to make the correct assessment of you.  All healthcare providers are trained to abide by the rule “do no harm”, when a provider determines that you do not need an antibiotic, respect his/her decision.  You could even ask, “what symptoms should I look out for that would indicate I would eventually need an antibiotic” so you know when to call back if needed.