Antibiotics may do more harm than good -

Antibiotics may do more harm than good

If you have a sinus infection, Leviquin may be the antibiotic of choice. But, do you need it? 

Dr. Rubin Patel says probably not. 

Sinus infections are only two percent bacterial, which means most are viruses that won't get better with antibiotics. 

Dot Stewart uses an over-the-counter pain medicine and a prescription nasal spray to help when she's feeling ill. If Dr. Patel has taught her anything, it's that antibiotics aren't a cure-all. She says she knows plenty of people who haven't learned that. 

"So many of my friends, when they have anything wrong, they go to the doctor to get the Z-pack," she says. 

A Z-pack, or zithromax, is a popular antibiotic.   

When matched to the right bacterial illness, an antibiotic can be a wonder drug. In fact, it's one of the biggest advances in medicine. But that success has brought an unwanted side effect. 

"When the patients come in, they expect an antibiotic and the doctors aren't standing up to the patients," explains Dr. Patel. 

Here's the confusing part: Cold and flu viruses can evolve into secondary bacterial illnesses like ear infections or pneumonia, but it takes about a week. That's when antibiotics may be necessary. 

Patel says the fly in the ointment is when doctors prescribe them too soon. 

"You can end up having a super-bug that may be resistant to all antibiotics," he adds. 

A relatively new staph infection called MRSA is just that kind of potentially deadly super-bug. Now it's happening with E. coli, a common cause of food poisoning that can also kill. 

Doctors see a lot of people like Dot Stewart with allergies, colds or flu-like viruses. Most have not developed a secondary bacterial infection. 

While experts say prescribing an antibiotic may make those patients think they feel better, in reality, it could be doing more harm than good. 

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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