Too often antibiotics are used in unnecessary situations, including when taken to treat a viral infection. In fact, a recent study notes that many antibiotics are unnecessarily over-prescribed for sinus infections, ear infections, throat infections and bronchitis. In addition to not helping with viral infections, antibiotics can put you at risk of serious side effects and complications.
So, when might providers prescribe antibiotics to patients who log on to Connect Care? Dr. William Daines, Medical Director, explains when antibiotics are appropriate for your top health concerns.
Typically, the symptoms of a sinus infection include nasal congestion, runny nose and pressure or pain felt behind the eyes or teeth. While one’s initial instinct might be to request antibiotics, growing research is showing that this is rarely the best course of action. This is because the majority of sinus infections are caused by viruses.
Antibiotics may be prescribed to you if:
• Your symptoms last longer than ten days
• Your symptoms are severe enough to significantly interfere with daily living
• You have a fever higher than 102.2o F lasting more than three days.
Sore throats sounds like a pretty straight forward topic, but there is some intricacy to it. Many patients think they may need an antibiotic for their sore throats, but nearly 90% of sore throats are caused by a cold or the flu. These are viral infections, so for most sore throats, you don't need an antibiotic.
But a sore throat caused by bacteria — the dreaded strep throat — does require antibiotics to go away. Keep in mind, the more cold-related symptoms you have, the less likely it is that your sore throat is a strep infection. In many cases of strep throat, you may experience:
• A fever higher than 102.2 degrees F
• Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
• Bright red throat or dark red spots on the roof of the mouth at the back near the throat
• White or yellow spots or coating on the throat and tonsils
So what if an online provider suspects you have strep throat? At Intermountain Healthcare, we are careful about only prescribing antibiotics when they are really needed, and thus require testing to prove that bacteria is the cause. Testing involves a throat swab—something that can’t be done over a video connection.
Depending on where you live, the provider may be able to arrange for you to have a strep test and a prescription (if necessary) waiting for you at an Intermountain lab and pharmacy without the need for another medical evaluation. If you don’t live near one of our testing centers, the provider will direct you to your primary care physician or a nearby urgent care or emergency department for care, and won’t charge you for your Connect Care visit. Connect Care providers can discuss medications to help you feel better while we arrange for appropriate testing.
Need to know if your sore throat is something more serious? Talk to a provider now.
There are two types of bronchitis. Acute bronchitis appears suddenly and usually involves a cough lasting up to three weeks. This type of bronchitis is almost always caused by a viral infection, so antibiotics are not useful. Chronic bronchitis involves recurring symptoms that can last for several months or years and is typically related to long-term lung irritation such as smoking.
Distinguishing between a cough from acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis, or another cause (such as allergies or pneumonia) involves taking a thorough medical history. Since acute bronchitis is almost always viral, antibiotics are not useful for this problem. If your provider feels there is a significant concern for something more than acute bronchitis, he or she may direct you to an in-person visit for a full evaluation, in which case the Connect Care visit fee is waived.
Need to talk to a doctor about that lingering cough? Connect Care is available now.
So before you make that call to try and get a quick fix with antibiotics, make sure they really are necessary for treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your condition, Connect Care providers have a deep clinical education and background to offer you the best treatment plan for your road to recovery.
*Connect Care providers cannot prescribe elective medications, narcotic pain relievers, muscle relaxants, other drugs listed as controlled substances or prescribe medication that requires an in-person exam.