Antibiotics alternatives for cold and flu

December 14, 2015 (Updated: July 31, 2017)
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

I like the way one writer puts it: For the love of God, people, stop taking antibiotics for colds.”

I’ll add, with equal passion: Fellow physicians, stop prescribing antibiotics for colds!

And, cold and flu sufferers, stop asking your doctor for antibiotics.

Antibiotics are among the most over-prescribed medications we’ve got. Yet they should be among the least prescribed.

If you get pneumonia, certain forms of bronchitis, MRSA, or cellulitis, you’ll need antibiotics. Because these are infections caused by bacteria.

If you have a cold or the flu, steer clear of antibiotics. That’s because antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. They do nothing at all to treat viral infections like cold and flu.

But if current trends aren’t radically corrected, here’s what antibiotics will do.

They threaten to turn our lives and our children’s lives into a living hell. We may soon revert to a world where people die from an infection as simple as a paper cut.

Yes, it’s that serious. I’ll explain in just a moment…

A word about the unwise

It’s not just me.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently did a multi-country survey of people’s knowledge of antibiotics. Among the findings:

  • 64 percent of respondents believed antibiotics can be used to treat flus and colds
  • 32 percent believed they can stop taking an antibiotic as soon as they feel better—even if they haven’t completed the entire prescription

These are among my more profound, jaw-dropping moments.

Antibiotics and the rise of the super bugs

I’m not a fan of antibiotics. Because, not only do they destroy the harmful bacteria in your body, they destroy most or all of the friendly bacteria as well—bacteria that are absolutely essential to fortifying your immune system and keeping you healthy.

When friendly bacteria go down, your immune system goes down. That happens with any course of antibiotics. That’s what’s always wrong with this picture.

But it gets much worse when someone who really does need an antibiotic fails to take the fully prescribed course. When that happens, only some of the disease-causing bacteria are eliminated. The strongest of them survive—and having been “vaccinated” by the antibiotic, they’ve “learned” how to resist that antibiotic.

These antibiotic-resistant bacteria are giving rise to “super bugs” which are multiplying all over the world. Rendering all but a handful of once-powerful antibiotics—responsible for saving millions of lives worldwide—without any potency whatsoever.

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“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis, and governments now recognize it as one of the greatest challenges for public health today. It is reaching dangerously high levels in all parts of the world,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.

Millions of lives are at stake, including here in the US. So listen and observe: for a cold or flu, say no to antibiotics.

Cold cures

The best cure, of course, is prevention. And my best suggestion for that is to gargle with plain water three times a day throughout cold and flu season.

Talk about simple—but it will cut your risk of catching a cold by almost 40 percent, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

If you already have a runny nose, drink lots and lots of water and get lots of sleep.

If you already have a cold or sinus infection, I highly recommend a saltwater nasal rinse with a neti pot.

A what?

It’s another wonderful practice that’s been around for centuries—because it works. Safely, effectively, and inexpensively. It removes mucus and irritating toxins and allergens, which reduces stuffiness and helps protect your lungs from unwanted visitors.

You’ll find neti pots and packaged saline nasal rinses in your drugstore.

The neti pot will come with detailed instructions. Or you can re-create the same effect yourself. All you need is water, salt, and a bulb syringe from your drugstore.

  1. Mix eight ounces of warm, distilled water (you want water that’s free of chlorine and any potential bacteria or pathogens ) with ⅛ teaspoon of salt. Sea salt is preferable for its important minerals, but use whatever is handy.
  2. Fill the bulb syringe with the solution.
  3. Lean over the sink and gently insert the syringe tip about ½” into your nose. Do not try to force the syringe any further. Trust your nose to know its limits.
  4. Point the tip of the syringe toward your temple, then gently squeeze the syringe bulb. The saltwater will flow into your nostril. Allow it to drain out of your mouth or other nostril.
  5. Switch nostrils and repeat.

Couldn’t be simpler.

Clean the syringe by filling it with fresh water several times and squeezing the water out.

When the water runs clear, dry the bulb well and store it with the tip facing downward so any water inside can drip out.

You can do this saline rinse several times a day to relieve your symptoms.

But remember—just say no to antibiotics unless your doc confirms your symptoms are due to a bacterial infection, not a cold or a virus.

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