The Crud: Another Antibiotic Observation

This is the "Immune +" version of the supplement Emergen-C, a powdered vitamin I like to mix with hot water like tea. It tastes good and feels good on a sore throat, but I am not sure it makes all that much difference in preventing upper respiratory tract infections.
This is the “Immune +” version of the supplement Emergen-C, a powdered vitamin I like to mix with hot water like tea. It tastes good and feels good on a sore throat, but I am not sure it makes all that much difference in preventing upper respiratory tract infections.

I know, I know. Everyone complains on social media when they get sick. Boring. And I am sick, so why am I boring you with it?

I had a head cold, a classic rhinovirus, before Christmas. I knew exactly what it was at the time. There were a couple of unpleasant days, but with rest and nutrition, I felt better, and was entirely well for the week between Christmas and News Year’s Day

By the end of last week, I was pretty sick. The constellation of symptoms included runny nose, an unproductive cough that hurt my upper chest, malaise and unsteadiness, and feeling either too hot or too cold. When I was in the waiting room to see my Physician’s Assistant (our doctor was booked, but I like his PA), a woman in the waiting room described having the same exact symptom set. When my PA examined me, she told me everyone is describing the same symptoms. Then back at the office, a co-worker describe the same set yet again.

Clearly we all have the same illness, probably caused by the same pathogen. My PA gave me two cough medicine prescriptions, one with codeine and one without, a big bolus of IM dexamethasone, and, most significantly, the antibiotic azithromycin.

I know this doesn’t sound like any kind of an objective or scientific observation, but I do try to be observant of my body and how it acts and reacts to everything – food, water, heat, cold, smoke, pollen, stress, illness, etc. – but this just didn’t feel like a virus. What do I mean by that? I’ve had my share of upper respiratory infections in my life. We all have. And in the past, when I have a typical viral infection, it feels a certain way, and this time it didn’t feel like a virus.

What's What with The Crud?

  • The upper respiratory tract includes the nasal passages, the sinuses, the trachea, and the upper tracheal branches. There’s no difference between a “sinus infection” and an upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Many people say, “I don’t know if this is just a cold or an infection.” Head colds are infections. Both viruses and bacteria cause infections.
  • Many people associate the word “flu” with gastro-intestinal symptoms and/or head cold symptoms, but influenza, for which “flu” is a nickname, is a very specific and dangerous upper respiratory tract infection.
  • The “flu shot,” or influenza vaccination, only protects you from the strains contained in the vaccine, and cannot give you the flu.

Then yesterday, my coworker with the same symptomatology told me she tested positive for strep, a bacterial infection. My PA’s guess, and mine, was right.

The point of this entry is that despite the medical community’s missteps and inappropriate use of antibiotics, there is still an important place for them in medicine. I felt (and looked, according to another coworker) much better in just 24 hours. Listen to your body and try to learn the difference between a simple head cold and something more serious and dangerous. And be an advocate for your own health.

This is generic guaifenesin, the drug most commonly prescribed and sold over the counter for cough and congestion, under brand names like Mucinex and Robitussin. In my opinion, it is not very effective.
This is generic guaifenesin, the drug most commonly prescribed and sold over the counter for cough and congestion, under brand names like Mucinex and Robitussin. In my opinion, it is not very effective.

 

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2 Comments

  1. I remember strep. Counting my breaths between coughing fits. The dizzies. Getting exhausted from drinking water. Being too tired to sleep. Mental acuity of a fence post.

    Get better.

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  2. Also, apparently, it’s easy to tell the difference between a cold and allergies — but I didn’t know this. I thought I had a long lasting cold, but it turns out I’m (suddenly, in my mid-40s) allergic to cedar pollen. Yuck. I now have a LOT more empathy toward allergy sufferers.

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