General Health

Helen Marsden

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‘I think I have a chest infection’, ‘I have a sore throat’, ‘I might have an ear infection.’ As a GP, these are daily scenarios that I meet.

Most infections are caused by viruses and if you have the full monty of cough, sneeze, drip, earache, runny eyes – then this is a very viral picture.

‘Do I need antibiotics?’ and the answer is very often ‘no’.

Bacterial infections are the only infections killed by antibiotics, and bacteria cause localised pockets of pus eg a nasty patch on infection in one area of one lung, or a very nasty pussy tonsil, or a one-sided throbbing or discharging ear.

Bacteria are getting clever and they are finding ways of making our modern antibiotics not work against them. If we want to save them for the future, then we should limit how often we use them. The less the bugs out there get exposed to antibiotics, the harder they find it to adapt to them.

If you are not sure whether you have a bacterial infection that might need antibiotics then take a swab test or sputum test – a sputum sample for a chest infection, a throat swab to test for bacterial causes of a sore throat or an ear swab for an earache. The swab test will tell us whether it is bacterial or not and if it is it even tells us the best antibiotic to use.

Paracetamol and a good cuddle is the best treatment for viruses, so save the antibiotics for when we really need them.

If you would like more information about this blog or associated tests then please contact us.

Dr Helen Webberley, MBChB MRCGP

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