University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Photo of pills and a bottle.
Photo by Angela Doss adossphoto/Flickr

What Can Patients and Physicians Do?

Dr. Allison McGeer gives advice on the use of antibiotics

What Can Patients Do?
Realize that not all bugs need drugs. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses such as the flu, colds or most sinus infections, coughs and bronchitis. Many doctors will recommend getting extra rest and letting the illness run its course.

  • Tell your doctor you’ll take an antibiotic only if necessary. “Ask, ‘Do I really need this?’” suggests microbiologist Dr. Allison McGeer
  • If doctors tell you an antibiotic won’t help, don’t seek out another doctor for a prescription
  • If prescribed an antibiotic, take it exactly as directed
  • When travelling to other countries, don’t buy antibiotics over the counter without consulting a doctor
  • Prevent infections by getting immunized, staying home if contagious and washing hands frequently
  • What Can Physicians Do?
    Rethink the notion that antibiotics are always the “better safe than sorry” option. “That approach is deeply embedded in the psyche of physicians,” McGeer says.

  • Avoid misreading your patient. A patient who asks about antibiotics isn’t necessarily asking for them
  • If you don’t believe antibiotics will help your patient, take the extra minute to explain why
  • If prescribing an antibiotic, make sure it’s the narrowest spectrum and for the shortest duration possible to cure the infection. Long-term use increases risks of C. difficile and side effects, as well as resistance
  • Encourage patients to get immunized and to practice careful hygiene
  • Recent Posts