When you visit your doctor you expect, most of the time, that they should be able send you on your merry way with a prescription to cure whatever ails you. Fortunately, in many cases, antibiotics can do the trick.
It is important to note, though, that antibiotics cannot kill a virus. Thus, if you have a cold—which is typically caused by the rhinovirus—or you have the flu—an infection of the influenza virus—antibiotics will not help you; so doctors won’t prescribe them.
Unless, of course, your doctor is one of the many who contribute to the massive number of people who are inappropriately prescribed antibiotics every year. According to research from King’s College London, more than half of patients are prescribed antibiotics when they are not necessary.
But the reason this might shock you.
According to lead study author Dr. Mark Ashworth, GP, form the King’s Division of Health and Social Care Research, “Many patients come in asking for antibiotics when they have viral infections such as colds, coughs, sore throats, or the flu, but antibiotics cannot treat viruses. GPs often feel pressured by patients to prescribe antibiotics and find it difficult to refuse a patient who asks for them.”
This study looked at records from 7,800 general practices across the United Kingdom.
Dr. Ashworth continues, “These findings suggest that practices that try to help prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by prescribing fewer antibiotics are likely to experience a drop in their satisfaction ratings. GPs who are frugal in their antibiotic prescribing may need support to maintain patient satisfaction. Although small-scale studies have shown that dissatisfaction about not receiving an antibiotic can be offset if the patient feels that they have been listened to or carefully examined, further research is needed to determine if this will help in the real world of busy GP practices.”