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Letter: Don’t take antibiotics you don’t need

Antibiotic capsules
Antibiotics are not always necessary and can be overused. —

Back in July of 1968, I was a graduate student happily traipsing around Europe with a couple of buddies. When we arrived in London we were, of course, terribly excited and firmed up the plans for the following days. So much to see and do!

I pleaded and even cried, but she was firm. No antibiotics.

Alas, next morning I woke up with a very sore throat and a fever, feeling terribly weak. I encouraged my buddies to do what we had planned, while I walked the longest nine blocks of my life to the nearest hospital, per hotel owner's advice. I assumed that some doctor would examine me and prescribe an antibiotic, so I could be quickly restored to health and sightseeing. I was in shock when the doctor, after examining me thoroughly, told me I didn't need an antibiotic, that my infection was viral and all I needed was a few days’ rest.

Rest! I exclaimed. Doctor please, I’m here for only four days, I can’t rest, I want to see London! I pleaded and even cried, but she was firm. No antibiotics. I asked why, when I had taken them in the past for similar conditions, and she patiently explained that antibiotics were overused, that there were dire consequences to their overuse, basically telling me what a recent article in your paper reported.

I dragged myself back to the hotel and rested the rest of the day, as my body refused to move. Fortunately, being young and healthy, the next day I woke up feeling much better and was able to “do London” the rest of the holiday, with a bit of effort.

This episode took place almost 50 years ago. Over that time period, now and again there would be pronouncements by medical scientists, picked up by the media, about the perils of antibiotic overuse. This knowledge is not new.

The onus is on physicians to stand firm and use best practice, even if patients demand and plead for antibiotics, and pharmaceutical companies peddle the latest and greatest antibiotics. Our health and lives depend on this!


Elena Hannah

St. John’s

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