Incredible, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that approximately 50% of antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily. Why should we be concerned? According to the CDC, “Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.”
In response to this serious overuse, the CDC launched a program to educate MDs and the public about the problem, especially in kids. The program, called “Get Smart: Know When to Use Antibiotics,” has a great website with information on how to evaluate whether you might have a health issue caused by bacteria (antibiotics sometimes necessary so see your doctor), or a virus (antibiotics are not effective).
We need to think twice before asking our doctors for antibiotics for upper respiratory infections such as colds, flu, sore throat, cough, earache, and clogged sinuses – most of which are viral. A responsible doctor will never write a prescription without an office visit and physical exam. If you do go home empty-handed, don’t worry. “Get Smart” provides lots of great tips on self-care, such as rest, fluids, pain-relievers and humidifier use for a common cold, for example.
Chinese herbal medicine offers many alternatives to antibiotics, such as the herbs isatis, honeysuckle, coptis and forsythia – to name a few. Under the care of a licensed acupuncturist, these herbs can replace antibiotics in certain cases, while also benefiting the immune system. While we can never replace the incredible role that antibiotics have in our world, we definitely need to get a lot smarter in their use.