In case you haven’t noticed, it’s cold and flu season again in this neck of the woods and this may have you wondering if an antibiotic might be the solution for whatever is ailing you.

Well, Dr. Rob Lamberts, pediatrician, internist and author of the ever popular medblog, Musings of a Distractible Mind has decided to weigh in on the subject in his latest post, Common myths about infections and antibiotics

Much attention has been given to the fact that antibiotics are given too often. The reason for this concern is that the overuse of antibiotics can create resistance in the bacteria a person carries, making it much harder to treat serious infections in the future.

For that reason, the physicians in our practice are trying to avoid using antibiotics unless they are necessary. The problem is that many patients come to the office already convinced that their infection requires an antibiotic and so will not be satisfied unless they get one. This puts our staff in a difficult position, as we want to practice good medicine, but also strive keep our patients happy.

Dr Rob then goes on to compile a list of common misconceptions about when antibiotics are appropriate. Here are a couple examples…

Sinus pain means you need antibiotics

Dr Rob explains…

Sinus pain is caused by a difference in pressure between the inside of the sinuses and the outside world. This is usually caused by thick mucous, and not necessarily infection. Decongestants can help with this (although they may not be appropriate with certain heart conditions and hypertension), as can salt water spray in the nose. The pain is best treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc), or ibuprofen (Advil, etc.).

“The last time I had this I needed antibiotics, so I wanted to catch it early this time.”

The straight scoop…

Most infections that do require antibiotics start with a virus infection and then turn into bacterial infection for which antibiotics are appropriate. To treat an infection “early” means that you would treat it when it does not yet need antibiotics. This is exactly what can cause resistant bacteria. If your symptoms are that of a virus, then antibiotics are a bad choice.

And the list continues with equally good information and advice.

Naturally, I’m tempted to just reprint Dr. Rob’s entire post, but then I’d be denying you the fun of discovering his blog for yourself. If you’re like most folks, you’ll want to bookmark his homepage (or add it to your list of RSS feeds) so you can keep up with every installment.

That is unless you’re afraid of llamas.