By Edward Stenehjem MD
Nov 21, 2019
Every year, you and your family face a fair share of cold, flu, ear, and sinus infections. These types of illnesses make you feel extremely bad and unlike your normal self. In fact, sometimes you feel so unlike yourself that you miss work or school and might try any remedy, treatment, or medication to start feeling better again. Antibiotics are often a patient-desired solution for these symptoms.
In some cases, antibiotics improve your symptoms and help you feel better, faster. However, in most cases, antibiotics aren’t necessary. Patients think antibiotics are a quick fix solution. But in reality, antibiotics don’t work on viruses that cause the common cold or flu, and rarely help with sinus and ear infections.
If your symptoms are severe and last a long time, your doctor may recommend watchful waiting or a delayed antibiotic prescription.
If your doctor believes that you or your child don’t need an antibiotic right away, they’ll ask you to do the following:
Your doctor will tell you how long to watch and wait. If your symptoms don’t improve or if they worsen at the end of the watchful waiting period, call your doctor for further instructions.
Your doctor will recommend watchful waiting based on the severity and duration of your symptoms. This information helps your doctor determine if your symptoms will respond to an antibiotic. If your symptoms aren’t severe but they’ve been present for over 10 days, it’s safe to not immediately use an antibiotic because your symptoms will likely improve on their own. This is the most common reason your doctor will use watchful waiting and, possibly, a delayed antibiotic prescription. If your symptoms don’t improve in 5 to 7 days after seeing your doctor, consider filling your prescription or calling your doctor.
Your doctor knows that:
During the watchful waiting time period, call the doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms:
Using antibiotics when they’re not needed can do more harm than good. By practicing watchful waiting and not overusing antibiotics, you’ll avoid the side effects antibiotics can cause, such as allergic reactions and diarrhea. The less antibiotics that we use, the more likely they are to work when we really do need them.