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October 5, 2009
Times Observer

The cold is the most common illness in the U.S. Catching a cold is such a fact of life that most people expect they'll get one or two every year. Although colds and flu infections usually are not considered serious illnesses, they are inconvenient and can disrupt our everyday lives. You may miss several work days each year because of colds and other upper respiratory illnesses. You may also miss additional work because you have to stay home with a child with a cold or the flu. The average adult has two to four colds a year; children have as many as 10.

Use Antibiotics the Right Way Many people believe antibiotics are a remedy or cure for almost any illness, but that is not true. According to NACCRAware, antibiotics can work very well in destroying and preventing certain bacteria from growing. However, antibiotics do not work on viruses, including the common cold, flu or typical seasonal related illnesses. Therefore, it is important to not treat these viruses with antibiotics.

Overuse and misuse of antibiotics is a great health concern. Using antibiotics for conditions that they do not treat are making people resistant. Once you take an antibiotic, your body starts to build an immunity - or resistance - to it. After too many doses, the antibiotic simply doesn't work anymore. This can be very dangerous if you develop a serious bacterial infection, such as pneumonia or staph infection (an infection that develops in open wounds), and the common antibiotics to treat it won't work.

When you become resistant to antibiotics, it affects you and others. Some diseases and infections once thought to be under control or wiped-out are now reappearing (and can be spread more easily) due to an increase in antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics should only be used when they are necessary or when they can be effective. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that upper respiratory illnesses account for 75 percent of all antibiotics prescribed by office-based physicians. In addition, more than 10 million courses of antibiotics are prescribed each year for viral conditions that do not benefit from antibiotics. Unfortunately, sometimes doctors feel pressure from parents who want an antibiotic to help their children who have a sore throat or severe cold to feel better quickly. Only your doctor can determine what kind of infection you or your children have and how to treat it.

Antibiotic resistance is now a leading campaign of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work is a national campaign to reduce the rate of the rise of antibiotic resistance. It helps by making you and your doctor aware of the increased dangers of using antibiotics for upper respiratory and viral infections.

How Not to Become Antibiotic Resistant The best way to prevent antibiotic resistance is to use antibiotics only when prescribed by your doctor and only when necessary. If a condition will go away on its own without antibiotics, it is recommended to wait it out.

Here are some other recommended practices: Do not take or give your children antibiotics for the cold, flu, coughs, or ear aches unless your doctor determines the symptoms are due to an infection caused by bacteria.

If you or your child get a cold, treat the symptoms but let the illness run its course. If your child is younger than 7 years old, check with your doctor before giving a cold medicine.

When you or your child take an antibiotic, take the full prescribed dosage. Do not skip doses. Do not stop taking it even when you or your child start to feel better or the symptoms go away.

Throw away any unused portions of the antibiotic when you are done taking the prescribed amounts.

Do not give antibiotics prescribed for you or your child to another person.

Do not demand antibiotics from your doctor when it is determined they will not help.

Getting a cold or flu or having a sore throat or ear infection is no fun. Children get cranky, weepy, and irritable. The best way to help your child feel better with these kinds of viral illnesses is to treat his or her symptoms:

Fever: Give plenty of liquids throughout the day. Ask your doctor if a fever reducer is needed.

Discomfort: Make sure your child is cool and comfortable. Room temperature should not be too hot. Use a humidifier if your child's nose is stuffy.

Sneezing, Coughing, Sore Throat: Have plenty of tissues ready. Give foods that are easy on the throat. Ask your doctor if it is okay to give your child over-the-counter medications for these symptoms.

We can't escape the fact that sooner or later we will come down with the cold or flu. Luckily, for most of us, it won't be serious. But when children get sick, we know it is a big deal for them. The best way to help your child with the cold or flu is to use common sense and know that in a few days the symptoms will get better.

Heidi Woodard is a resident of Jamestown, NY. She graduated from Jamestown Community College with honors, and earned an Associates degree in Social Sciences. She also graduated from SUNY Fredonia with highest honors earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is currently employed with the Chautauqua Child Care Council a service of Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc.

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