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Why Your Doctor Won't Prescribe Antibiotics

Why are some doctors so stingy with antibiotics? House Call Doctor reveals the dangers of antibiotic overuse. Plus - the reason why it's so hard to get a prescription for antibiotics over the phone.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD
7-minute read
Episode #181

So you see, every time your doctor prescribes antibiotics, he or she must think of these risks and consequences. It’s not easy to explain all of this over the phone (or in person for that matter), nor is it easy to determine if the patient suffers from an illness that mandates antibiotics without seeing them in person.  Doctors don’t want to contribute to the over-use of antibiotics that has caused these dangerous consequences. 

How to Prevent Further Consequences of Antibiotics

Both patients and doctors must work together to stop this trend of over-prescribing antibiotics. Here's what you as a patient can do: 

  1. If you're having a medical problem, visit your doctor. After a thorough history and exam, trust your doctor's judgment. If the doctor says you have a viral condition, then antibiotics are not the solution. If you don’t trust your doctor, then it’s time you found another one whom you do trust. 

  2. Don’t ask your doctor to prescribe antibiotics without coming in for a visit. You're hurting yourself in the long run if you take unnecessary antibiotics.

  3. When a doctor prescribes you antibiotics, question the decision. Ask why they think it’s bacterial in origin.  Did they see pus in your ears?  The diagnosis of “acute bronchitis” is often viral – why did they think it’s necessary for you to take antibiotics? Could that sore throat of 2 days in duration be more likely viral than bacterial?  Ask questions. And if your doctor can't or won't answer your questions, find one who is happy to.

As for doctors and medical providers, we have to do our part to stem the tide of antibiotic overuse too. We must say “no” to patients who request antibiotics when we know their illnesses are not bacterial. It may seem easier to write that prescription than to take the time to explain our reasoning, but ultimately it does everyone a disservice. 

I always tell my patients that I am treating them the way that I would treat myself and my own family. As an example, my toddler twin girls have been struck with the cold and/or flu a total of 4 times since they started preschool in December. My husband and I have been sick a combined total of 6 times in the past year (thanks girls!). How many times did we take antibiotics for these viral illnesses? 

Zero. None.

I realize that we have a unique advantage since we are both doctors and can determine the difference between viruses and bacteria. But if your illness has persisted longer than 7-10 days without an improvement, please see your doctor to evaluate your condition…and trust her opinion if she tells you it’s viral.

Don’t get me wrong - antibiotics are life-saving and necessary sometimes…when the illness is caused by bacteria. It’s only then that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Share your ideas and learn more quick and dirty tips with us on the House Call Doctor’s Facebook and Twitter pages!  You can even find me on Pinterest!

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

 

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education.