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Fevers, coughs, and colds...OH MY!!

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fevers, coughs, and colds...OH MY!!

My sister sent me a text last night about a conversation that she overheard, which got me thinking about a common misconception about illness: when to treat. Most of us will get a cough, runny nose, sore throat, etc at some point and it may even be accompanied by a fever....fevers are NOT bad things! A fever is your bodies way of responding to any pathogen (virus, bacteria, etc) that invades your system. A lot of people reach for Tylenol (Acetaminophen)/Advil (Ibuprofen) the moment that they feel 'feverish' and that precludes your body from fighting off the pathogen optimally. Now, if you have a temperature of 101.5 are beet read and can barely move, am I telling you to sit there and 'sweat it out'? Absolutely not! But, if the fever and its side effects are tolerable (i.e. you are able to sleep, rest, walk to get fluids/use the restroom) then try to work with it, and let your body do its thing to kill off that pathogen. If your fever is higher than 101.0 for a few hours and you are feeling horrible, please call your doctor and treat yourself with your antipyretic of choice, please! Common sense does play a role here, but the human body has an amazing immune response and it is actually very efficient, just most of us don't let it work as it should because we are very quick to treat the issue so that we can get back to work, do errands, take care of kids, etc, instead of doing what we should; rest up, take some 'me' time, and drink lots of fluids (water/gatorade/vitamin water/anything other than soda please!). It is not always easy, actually it is near impossible to rest and take the time that your body needs to heal and fight infection, but it is crucial to healing, and to having a healthy lifestyle in general- we all need to make more times for ourselves just to relax, even when we are feeling well!!

Now the other thing that I want to clear up is the issue surrounding viral infections. Viral infections, are viruses (which may sound really stupid), but viruses do not respond to antibiotics, only bacteria do! For example, most of the time your head cold that turns into a bronchitis is the result of the virus moving through your system, so going to your HCP (Healthcare Practitioner) looking for antibiotics because you have had a cold for a few days and now it has moved to your chest, isn't usually helpful to you. Most viruses last in the system for 7-14 days (usually by 10 days they are gone but you can have a residual cough, etc), so by the time you go to your HCP, its been, let's say 7 days, you start your z-pack that they gave you (which is a poor choice on their behalf...they should know better!!), which will start to work in 3 days, and....it's a miracle: you're better!! You are better because the virus has ran its course, not because of the z-pack, or whatever the broadband antibiotic of choice was that day. Now, I am not saying that it is NEVER a bacterial infection but around 90% of all bronchitis infections are viral (American Lung Association), so the best way to feel better is use a humidifier while you sleep to help break up the mucous in your lungs and allow you to cough it up ("better out than in" is my motto!), DON'T SMOKE (bascially...EVER and especially if you are sick), limit second hand smoke (again, general rule to live by, in my book), rest, fluids, good old fashioned Vicks vaporub (a personal favorite), and stay away from dust/fumes/vapors. You can even try an OTC (over the counter) cough and cold remedy to clear up day/nighttime symptoms (just a tip: the 'nighttime' versions just have Benadryl added, so if you don't need the other stuff, take a Benadryl and it will help to dry up secretions and help you sleep!) If you are wheezing, call your HCP and they may order you for an inhaler to open up the old bronchioles and help you breathe better, or put you on steroids to help decrease the inflammation in the bronchioles (which causes all the nastiness that you feel). If you are having difficulty breathing, please seek immediate help!

One other point on this topic regarding antibiotic overuse: you increase your risk of antibiotic sensitivity (i.e. allergy) and the risk of antibiotic resistance. You do not want either want of these issues, trust me! It becomes very difficult to treat patients when they are acutely ill and they are allergic to basically every antibiotic because they have been treated with every antibiotic known in the primary care field, and they come in with a life threatening infection that is resistant! So please, question your HCP if they throw a z-pack at you when you aren't feeling well with a cold....I know that you feel like crap and the z-pack looks like the oasis that you have been looking for, but think about your long term health and the effects that it can have on you. And keep in mind that everything we put into our bodies that isn't organic food is a poison, including medications that keep some of us alive, so try to limit the amount of poisons that you expose your body to, and (I cannot urge enough) get some rest, drink lots of water, and use common sense; your body is your top priority!!

Yours in Good Health!!

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