WAYNESBORO, Pa. – When you’re sick and go to an urgent or walk-in care facility, you expect to leave with something more than sage advice on how to start feeling better – like an antibiotic.
However, that’s not always the most responsible thing the provider seeing you can do, according to Lisa Hamaker, a certified registered nurse practitioner with Summit Walk-in Care, which is now part of WellSpan Health.
“We want to clear up some misconceptions that we’ve seen on social media concerning the prescription of antibiotics,” said Hamaker. “We can only use antibiotics for treatment of a bacterial infection.”
As a CRNP, Hamaker has an advanced nursing degree that allows her to see and treat patients. CRNPS can order laboratory testing; imaging such as X-rays, MRIs and CT scans; and prescribe medications.
Hamaker explained that antibiotics aren’t effective for treating viral illnesses and said misuse of antibiotics for viral illnesses can lead to strains of bacteria that are resistant to the drugs.
“The common cold, that is caused by a virus, as is the flu and bronchitis. And those sorts of viral illness really need to run the course,” she noted. “Being prescribed an antibiotic will not help your symptoms. It won’t make you feel any better. And, it could actually cause nausea (or) diarrhea.”
Antibiotics are effective for treatment of a range of bacterial infections, including strep throat.
When you have a viral illness, Hamaker said self-care efforts help manage symptoms best.
“Listen to your body. If you’re tired, lie down and take a nap, get a good night’s sleep,” she said. “Drink lots of water or hot tea with honey is also very helpful.”
Sometimes, however, a viral illness won’t clear on its own, causing bacteria to grow. Hamaker said this is why providers often stress that a patient should be seen again if they’re not feeling better in seven to 10 days.”
“The reason you may need to come back for reevaluation when you’re told you have a viral infection, and told the various things you can do to treat the symptoms that you’re having, is really for your safety and for your overall well-being going forward.”
Hamaker concluded that while being sick isn’t fun, it’s to the benefit of the patient’s long-term health to treat them responsibly and only prescribe antibiotics when they’re truly needed – for bacterial illnesses.
“If we just give you an antibiotic when you have a viral infection, it’s not going to help you. And it would be irresponsible of us as providers to give you that antibiotic because then you might develop, and most likely will develop, resistance to the antibiotic.”
Feeling better without antibiotics
If you do get the flu, providers sometimes prescribe antiviral drugs that can help treat it. In other cases of viral infections, those who are ill can use self-care measures to help feel better.
- Drink fluids
- To help alleviate congestion, use a cool-mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray
- To ease throat pain, try crushed ice, spray antiseptics or lozenges (young children should not be given lozenges)
- Ask your provider for recommendations of over-the-counter treatments to help manage symptoms
Summit Health is a non-profit network of hospitals and physician practices dedicated to building a healthier community.
As Franklin County's leading healthcare provider, Summit Health offers family care, specialists, lab and imaging services, a fitness center, urgent care centers, and two award-winning hospitals.