WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOUR CRAZY IMMUNE SYSTEM & ANTIBIOTICS
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Imagine learning that your nation's army; slept in each day, trained only when they absolutely had to, the uniforms consisted of onesies and fury slippers, they only trained during sunshine and warm weather, none of them spoke the same language, and they spent most of their time at the spa - being pampered by the government. Worst of all, they're only trained in weaponry once wars have already begun. It's a worrisome thought. How can this army possibly go to war and actually win?!
Welcome to your immune system - well, most immune systems.
Our immune systems are in fact armies and each of us have our own troops. It's such a complex network that requires thorough communication, constant training and real-world combat in order to succeed.
Providing overly sanitized environments is like child-proofing a war zone. The use of unnecessary antibiotics are like training your soldiers with the wrong weapons, you may as well give them plastic nunchucks and water balloons for a nuclear war.
I've always been a little weary of antibiotics. I do my best to let my army train without being pampered. To be honest, it's the only part of me that exercises regularly...AND best of all, I don't need to go to the gym for it.
Oxford Dictionary defines the immune system as:
The organs and processes of the body that provide resistance to infection and toxins. Organs include the thymus, bone marrow, and lymph nodes.
If you don't know anything about your immune system, check out this video before reading on to what our expert guest blogger has to reveal about antibiotics. You may want to get to know a little something, it's the only built-in firewall protection that you have.
Meet Johnathan, he's a practicing independent pharmacist prescriber, pharmacy manager and store manager. In 2009 , Johnathan was recognized as 'Best of the Best' for his role as base pharmacist in the north Scotland region of Boots.
Check out what Mr. Laird says about your beloved antibiotics.
It’s a viral thing! Antibiotics no thanks! Self care yes please!
Written By: Johnathan Laird
I’ve got the cold can I have an antibiotic to fix it?
No, no, no, no, no and no again!
The common cold is caused by a virus so antibiotics are pointless. Antibiotics don’t work when treating a viral infection. However the overuse of antibiotics and the inevitable ensuing growing levels of antibiotic resistance is a problem of our time.
In a population of many millions of bacteria exposed to an antibiotic the vast majority die. However if one mutates and acquires a feature that allows survival this is known as resistance. This lucky bacteria will survive and reproduce rendering that antibiotic useless against this organism. Resistance is an example of the process of natural selection. Unfortunately at the moment the bacteria are winning this war which is why as health professionals we need to work together to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing.
The common cold is a mild viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, sinuses, nose or throat. A common cold can last usually for approximately two weeks and is often followed by a productive cough. This is simply a cough that brings with it phlegm. The common cold is self-limiting. This means, although uncomfortable, the body under normal circumstances deals with the infection without outside support.
The problem is that although completely useless, at the time of year, broad spectrum antibiotics are prescribed in the futile hope of curing the common cold.
The number needed to annoy when prescribing antibiotics is often as low as one! This is a rather flippant way (stolen from @sailordoc) of describing the fact that patients often go into GP or pharmacy consultations wanting an antibiotic to magically cure the common cold.
The phrase “It’s a wee viral thing” is a common refrain. In my experience it never satisfies or reassures patients. It usually just ramps up the agitation levels.
I’ve never really explored what other community pharmacists do in this situation. For me it’s important to articulate carefully to patients what ‘abnormal’ looks like and also what I, as a pharmacist, am looking for clinically to concern me and therefore trigger a referral or a prescription.
-A child with a suspected middle ear infection that has recently become deaf or has fluid coming out of the ear.
-A severe headache or sickness.
-Patient is coughing up blood.
-Confusion or drowsiness.
-Increased respiratory rate and difficulty breathing.
-Symptoms have not resolved in the ‘normal timeframe’ or symptoms are getting rapidly worse.
It’s self care week so here are a few extremely simple tips for patients once you have established that ‘it’s a wee viral thing’.
I recommend simple things first like steaming in a warm shower or bath. Paracetamol or other anti-pyretics are useful to bring down an elevated body temperature. Drinking plenty of fluids can help.
Reassurance is however your best treatment. For example an elevated body temperature during a viral infection is symptomatic of a typical inflammatory response of the body to the offending virus. Body temperature elevates when pyrogens like interleukin-1 reach the hypothalamus in the brain. Pyrogens like this are produced when white blood cells come into contact with the offending virus.
Describing to the patient that the temperature they are suffering from is actually the body reacting in a positive way can be very effective.
I find that the process of ‘expectation management’ can really help the patient to explain the normal course of certain infections. A cough can quite normally last for up to three weeks. A middle ear infection persists for four days. It’s not uncommon for sinusitis to last for 18 days.
The document below produced by a range of professional bodies in collaboration is both a simple and potent tool to use regardless of clinical setting.
The need to halt the process of antibiotic is real and urgent. Without antibiotics that work even the simplest medical procedures become potentially life threatening.
If you want learn more about pharmaceuticals check out Johnathan's site at: https://johnathanlaird.com