We getting to the peak of the flu season now folks. If you haven’t gotten your flu shot, you’re susceptible. But how do you know if your symptoms are the flu or something else? And why is that so important? When you get the sniffles, maybe a cough, or a fever, bingo, we label it the flu. And then many of us want an antibiotic--and many times doctors will give it! The fact is, it may not be the flu, and if it is, an antibiotic isn’t called for. What is called for when you’re first feeling sick is a rapid flu test. Unfortunately, the latest research shows even doctors will still prescribe an antibiotic, even when testing shows you actually do have the flu! The study in the archives of internal medicines shows almost 2/3rds of patients who were on antibiotics in the hospital for a respiratory infection, and were then showed to have the flu--and likely not a bacterial infection requiring an antibiotic--still were kept on the antibiotic. The test: a rapid flu test, like this, which can be done on inpatients or outpatients… It’s easy--a simple swab of the nose or throat; it’s cheap--about twenty bucks; and in 15 to 30 minutes, you know if you have the flu or not. Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, says, “It is extremely important to diagnose influenza as soon as you can because then you know that you are dealing with a specific viral diagnosis that has specific anti-viral medication, otherwise you might be treating with antibiotics which aren’t necessary. anybody who presents with fevers, dry cough, body aches and is suspect for influenza should be getting this test, because those patients can be treated with a specific anti-influenza medication that other patients wouldn’t get if they simply had a cold or other virus.’
There are several anti-viral medications that work to lessen the severity and the duration of symptoms of the flu, tamiflu being one of them. But they work best the earlier they’re taken in the course of the illness, and need to be started in the first 48 hours. And antibiotics should be stopped--or never started--if it is the flu! “The doctor feels they should offer something since the patient came in to visit them. The fact is that you are doing the patient a disservice by prescribing a antibiotic that is not necessary,” states Dr. Horovitz.
“The more you use antibiotics the more the bacteria is able to outsmart the antibiotics and they become resistant to antibiotics. So when you don’t need to use an antibiotic is important not to.” This whole point is moot if you get yourself a flu shot. It’s still not too late; if you’re healthy, it becomes fully effective in two to four weeks, and we still have to get through april or so go get your shot!