Antibiotics Won't Help Most Colds

Most of the time a rhinovirus is the cause of the common cold, with a variety of viruses responsible for the remaining cases of the sniffles. However, bacterial infections are rarely the cause of upper respiratory symptoms so antibiotics won't help most colds. Almost all cases of the common cold are caused by viruses and antibiotics do not work on viral infections, yet an amazing 60% of colds are treated with antibiotics, costing $37.5 million per year in the US.

In the new study, 200 young adults with the common cold were studied over a 10-month period. In 138 participants, or 69%, the researchers were able to determine what organism was causing the symptoms, such as stuffy nose and sore throat. They found that 76% had rhinovirus, 12% had coronavirus OC43 or 229E, and 9% had influenza A or B. The remainder of people were infected with parainfluenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus and enterovirus. Only seven patients had signs of a bacterial infection, and six of those also had a virus. The researchers also found that it cost up to $700 per patient to diagnose the cause of a cold. "In routine clinical practice, there is no need to do etiological diagnosis of the common cold," conclude the researchers.

Journal of Clinical Microbiology 1998;36:539-542

COMMENT: Yet another peer reviewed article confirming the futility of antibiotics in the vast majority of colds. The more practical solution is to address the cause of the cold. This time of year, the more common causes are many. Probably one of the largest is lack of sufficient skin exposure to high intensity photons. (Not enough sunshine). So if you can get away to somewhere warm and sunny that would be helpful. Lack of sleep and adequate resources to cope with stress is another large cause. Of course we can not forget sugar one of the major contributors of nearly every illness known to man. Beyond addressing the causes some of the items that are helpful are nutritional interventions. One would be to take zinc lozenges. I would suggest using one quarter tablet every 30 minutes (you can cut it with a sharp razor blade). If the zinc makes you nauseous then stop immediately. This works nearly 50% of the time. You can also use vitamin C 500 to 1000 mg every HOUR, but decrease the dose if you develop loose stools. Of course 8 glasses or more of pure water and plenty of rest. If that doesn't work and you are a patient of mine, and you have a particularly severe cold, you might want to call our office for an intravenous injection of magnesium and hydrochloric acid. The combination seems to be a potent stimulus to the immune system to increase the production of lymphocytes and white blood cells and seems to work in about 80% of the people who receive it by shifting the alkaline pH imbalance that develops during acute illness. It is quite amazing.

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