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Overprescribing antibiotics worrying for some doctors

Fears of superbugs, MRSA prompting doctors to promote patience instead of prescriptions

SAN ANTONIO – In allergen-filled South Texas, sinus infections, ear infections and bronchial infections are prevalent all year long, and so is the prescribing of antibiotics to try to knock them out.

Today, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as many medical groups, are promoting caution, patience and awareness of the new slew of problems over-prescribing these medications can cause.  

Dr. Paul Berman, a local pediatrician, said there is absolutely a legitimate concern.

"What happens when you give the antibiotics is the bacteria learn how to adapt and change so that they can survive despite the antibiotics. That's how we end up with the superbugs or MRSA," he said.

The CDC is so concerned that it's devoted space on its website to the issue and launching a campaign to spread awareness among hospitals, clinics and the general public. 

One article addresses the misconceptions about what antibiotics can do. For example, antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses like colds, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis and many sinus and ear infections. 

The site also notes that antibiotics will not keep others from getting your sickness and they will not help you or your child feel better, but instead can cause side effects like yeast infections and contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Some clinics have found a compromise to keep their patients happy. They will write a prescription for antibiotics and tell the patient to hang onto it if their condition worsens.

Berman said he is not in favor of this method, favoring treating symptoms with over-the-counter medications for 10 days or so. That way, if it's a virus, the symptoms will subside without taking unnecessary medications.

"The most prudent management would be to reexamine the patient to see if the antibiotics are really needed," he said.

In some cases like strep throat, whooping cough and urinary tract infection, antibiotics are needed. Other common clinic visits however do not, including the flu, sore throat, and chest cold.

The CDC has much more information on its website about what you need to know as a patient, as well as material on its new campaign called Get Smart About Antibiotics Week coming up in November.