Why Won’t My Doctor Give Me Antibiotics?

(HealthyAccess)- When people call in to their doctor’s office complaining of a sickness, they often expect to be given antibiotics to help fight the infection. Yet sometimes, doctors refuse to prescribe antibiotics and require the patients to come in for a diagnosis. Why is that?

For starters, there’s a difference between a viral infection versus bacterial infection, and only the latter responds to a boost from antibiotics. To learn more, keep reading.

Virus vs. Bacteria

Bacteria cause bacterial infections and viruses cause viral infections. But what exactly does that mean?

Bacteria are tiny living organisms that survive and thrive in all types of environments. These microorganisms can be helpful, such as bacteria that break down food in the intestines, or harmful, like the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections. Antibiotics are used to kill bad bacteria.

Viruses, on the other hand, are tinier than bacteria, and they aren’t able to live and reproduce outside of a host body. A host is a living thing, such as a person or animal. Viruses actually invade the cells of their host and redirect these cells to make even more viruses. It may sound scary, but viruses are fairly common infections and often, people’s immune systems can fight off basic viruses on their own.

Some types of viruses include strains of flu, the common cold, and chickenpox. Though antibiotics can’t be used to fight viruses, people can avoid contracting some of the more serious viral infections by getting vaccinated against them.

The Power of Antibiotics

Ultimately, antibiotics are only able to fight bacteria-related illnesses, such as bacterial pneumonias, strep throat, bacterial ear infections, and tuberculosis. Some bacterial illnesses can lead to serious health issues if untreated. Fortunately, antibiotics can be powerful defenses against bacterial infections–that is, as long as antibiotics aren’t overprescribed and misused.

Antibiotic Resistance

Even if someone has a bacterial infection, it is possible that their doctor doesn’t want to prescribe antibiotics because taking too many antibiotics or taking them irregularly (e.g., not following the prescription directions) can lead to antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria and fungi develop the ability to overpower and outlast antibiotics. If someone has already taken one round of antibiotics and that didn’t make their illness go away, then there’s likely something more going on that the doctor needs to look into.

The person could actually have a viral infection, which means antibiotics won’t be effective anyway, or it could be that the bacteria infecting them is resistant to antibiotics. Either way, prescribing more of the same antibiotic likely won’t help. That’s why the doctor will ask to see the patient in-person. At that point, the doctor can try to better assess what will be most helpful for their patient to start feeling better.

Being sick can really bring someone’s mood down, which is why it’s all the more frustrating when it seems like the doctor isn’t doing everything they can to help someone get healthy. However, there’s often more to beating colds than taking antibiotics, especially if the sickness is actually a viral infection or the bacteria is resistant to antibiotics. When in doubt, it’s helpful to have a candid conversation with your doctor.

~Here’s to a Happier, Healthier Life!

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