Dr. Peter, my neighbor just got diagnosed with shingles. I heard it’s a miserable experience, is it contagious?
Mindy, DHS

Mindy, a person does not get shingles (Herpes Zoster) when they come in contact with someone who has it. When someone has gotten over the chicken pox, that virus goes into “hibernation” and may flare up later in life. This flare up will follow the pathway of a nerve and may become very painful. Unless you haven’t had the chickenpox yet, there is a chance you may get the chickenpox if you come into contact with a person with shingles.

Dear Dr. Kadile, I know antibiotics do not work for the common cold, but what about when my mucus turns green?
Carol, La Quinta

Carol, this subject regarding the color of one’s mucus or phlegm determining the need for antibiotics is another one of the must frustrating medical myths primary care physicians encounter in their practices. Since we are now into cold and flu season, I deal with this type of question quite frequently in my own practice.

When you have cold symptoms and blow your nose or cough up phlegm that is green, this does not mean you have a bacterial infection which would need antibiotics. The green color comes from enzymes released by your white blood cells used to fight off the infection, When your sinuses are clogged during a cold, the mucus in the sinuses will stagnate and appear green when you sneeze or blow your nose.

The bottom line is that green mucus or phlegm does not mean you need antibiotics.

Dear Dr. Kadile, a lot of my fellow co-workers have had symptoms of runny nose, congestion and cough. I can’t afford to get sick, shouldn’t I be proactive and take an antibiotic to prevent me from getting something?
George, Palm Desert

George, it sounds like your co-workers have had colds. As I’ve said in the past, colds are caused by viruses, NOT bacteria. Viruses DO NOT respond to antibiotics. Taking an antibiotic to prevent you from getting a cold would be worthless. The best method of prevention would be to wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with the sick.

Hey Doc, I feel like I am getting a cold. My friends say I should get a Zpack from my doctor, but I can’t get in to see him for a week. What is a Zpack?
Vincent, Palm Springs

Vincent, a Zpack is an antibiotic called azithromycin that you take for 5 days. It works well against a broad spectrum of antibiotic infections, but does not work against viral infections. A “cold” is a viral infection and will not respond to any antibiotic. I very frequently have a discussion with patients about the misuse of antibiotics for colds. The very common argument that I get is, “well the Zpack worked the last time I got a cold”.

The truth is, patients generally get better on their own in a week, and if they happen to have taken antibiotics, feel it was the antibiotics that cured them, but in reality the antibiotics had nothing to do with it. Antibiotics are not benign, they can adversely affect your gut, destroy good as well as bad bacteria and cause bacterial resistance with overuse. When you get a cold, rest, drink plenty of water and increase supplementation with vitamin C and D. If the cold symptoms (cough, sneezing, congestion, runny nose) persist for greater than 1-2 weeks, then see your doctor for further evaluation.