Being sick is no fun especially if a sore throat is involved. There is pain when swallowing and sometimes you lose your voice due to the inability to produce your regular sounds. It is a pretty miserable feeling and it is difficult to find comfort. Sometimes, you go to the doctor and they don’t even give you antibiotics, perhaps just some bitter tasting cough syrup. Why is this?
Why Didn’t the Doctor Give Me Antibiotics?
To understand why the doctor didn’t prescribe antibiotics, one must first understand how antibiotics work. The purpose of antibiotics is to fight off bacterial-related infections. Antibiotics work by either slowing down, preventing, or killing the growth process of bacteria. When the bacteria die off, the cells in the body are now infection free and can now begin the healing process.
When antibiotics are taken carelessly, it can lead to many issues. There are MANY species of bacteria that exist (probably in the 700’s). There are some that are good for your body and others that make you sick. When you take antibiotics, you are hoping to kill off the bad ones only, but it does NOT work like that. In fact, antibiotics are like a “nuclear bomb” that takes out BOTH the good and bad. BUT, what happens if many of the good are easily killed off, while the bad is left to survive?
Bacteria live by multiplying themselves as much as possible and they compete for foods (from what we eat) with other bacteria. Typically, the good bacteria far outnumber the bad bacteria (otherwise we would be sick all the time) and have greater access to the food. However, if the good bacteria is killed off by antibiotics, and if the bad ones survive? There is no longer competition and the bad bacteria now has a free buffet pass. They multiply and with a large number, they can potentially cause harm to the body through the toxins they produce.
This is why the doctor did not prescribe antibiotics. It can sometimes do more harm than good.
If Not Bacterial, What is Causing the Infection?
The culprit is most likely due to a virus. You can take all the antibiotics in the world and it won’t do a thing to viruses. Thus, what you need is NOT antibiotics, but rather antivirals. Antiviral medications work in the same manner as antibiotics except rather than bacteria, they prevent the growth and spread of viruses. So now, why didn’t the doctor prescribe me antiviral medications?
Well, there could be several reasons. One common reason is that the time it takes for one to recover from a viral infection WITH taking antivirals is NOT significantly different from NOT taking antivirals. In other words, whether you take antiviral medications or not, the time it takes to recover is still about the same (it might be a difference of 1 day).
Another reason is that antiviral medications can be quite expensive (and the doctor may know that). I had insurance and went to pick up an antiviral once and my bill came out to be about $80 something still. Was it worth that extra 1 day of faster recovery? Not quite (I refused the medication that day).
So if antibiotics and antivirals aren’t going to help very much, what can one do about this sore throat?
Remedies for Sore Throat
There are many other cost effective ways to treat sore throat that can be just as or more effective than antibiotics or antivirals.
- Honey – an effective wound healer (sore throat, with micro tears), interferes with bacterial and viral growth
- Gurgling salt water – kills foreign microbes
- Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice – the acidity also stops microbe growth
- Garlic – has allicin (known for fighting off infection)
- Elderberry (liquids, capsules, gummies) – high in antioxidants
- Vitamin C – helps with boosting immunity
- Staying hydrated – helps you sweat or urinate the foreign specimen
- Sleep – the time when body heals the best
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In most retail pharmacies, you can purchase these throat lozenges called Cold Eeze. They are pretty much like medicated cough drops and the active ingredient is zinc gluconate. Zinc gluconate is known for reducing the common cold duration perhaps by about 30%. They work by interfering with the virus’ ability to multiply. So if they can’t multiply, then it’s like killing them and if no longer there, the body can heal!
Cold Eeze isn’t the best tasting lozenge and it does leave your mouth with a dry, sticky sensation. (Perhaps you can make up for that with the different variety of flavors). This acts like a shield for the injured cells in your throat. The good news is that when you feel better, you won’t have to take it anymore!
If you want more of a cooling/numbing effect for your throat, Cepacol is a great option as well. The active ingredient is Benzocaine which is a topical pain reliever (numbing agent). The Menthol in it just produces a cooling effect.
If the pain is unbearable, you can also incorporate pain relievers like Tylenol or anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen.
Now that you know more about antibiotics and antivirals, you also know why some doctors are hesitant to prescribe them. They may not be as effective in treating our sore throat as we had imagined them to be. If only there was such a thing as a magic pill that can instantly take away all illnesses.
In addition, there are also many natural remedies and even over-the-counter medications (like Cold Eeze or Cepacol) that you can use that can help further reduce your symptoms of sore throat. Additionally, they can be very cost effective! If you find yourself not getting any better in a couple weeks and are worried, you can always consult with your family doctor. Hopefully these methods can help you shorten the duration of sore throat symptoms!
Especially with COVID-19 around (a virus), it is still always good to continue practicing good hygienic habits, wearing a mask, checking temperatures, and social distancing.
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