By Dr. Peter Kadile
Well it’s cold and flu season again. I have seen a lot more flu this season in my patients, family and friends. Symptoms can range in severity from fatigue, body aches, nausea, vomiting, cough, sore throat and fevers.
I would like to mention a few things about the flu.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,
ANTIBIOTICS DO NOT WORK AGAINST THE FLU!
It never ceases to amaze me, despite education from healthcare professionals and even from the media that people will still ask me for antibiotics for the flu or a cold. Again, antibiotics work against bacterial infections, NOT viral infections, such as a cold or flu. Complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, would need antibiotic treatment.
Rest, fluids, over the counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen for body aches and fevers are helpful. Your physician may need to prescribe anti-nausea medication if vomiting occurs.
The flu may last a few days to 1-2 weeks. If symptoms worsen, then you should see your doctor.
Dear Dr. Kadile, I know antibiotics do not work for the common cold or flu, 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 most 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.
Doc, a friend of mine recommended taking an antiviral if I get the flu, what is that?
Oscar, antiviral medications such as, Tamiflu, Relenza and Rapivab, are indicated for treatment of the flu. These medications need to be taken within the first 48 hours of developing the flu to be effective. If they are effective, they have only been shown to decrease the duration of the flu by 1-2 days. They typically cost @ $100 for treatment and are generally not covered by insurance. They are not without possible side effects; severe skin rashes, blistering, changes in behavior and more commonly nausea and vomiting.
Antivirals are indicated for people who are sick enough to be hospitalized with the flu, those with severe health problems such as asthma, pulmonary disease or heart disease, adults age 65 or older, morbidly obese and residents of nursing homes.