Sam Watts, MD

Q: I recently saw my healthcare provider with four days of sore throat, snotty nose and chest congestion.  He gave me an antibiotic.  Why am I not getting better?

A: Your question is great and timely.  The vast majority of sore throats and head/chest congestion are caused by viruses.  Antibiotics are over-prescribed for this.  People have come to expect a quick fix and cure with common conditions- like colds- that have plagued human kind since the beginning of time.  Viral colds typically run through a continuum of symptoms:  first the sore throat with nasal burning…then the drippy, runny nose…then more head congestions and pressure.  By the fourth day or so, there is typically a dry cough (sometimes a little loose with slight thin phlegm production).  At any time during the illness, you may feel tired and even slightly achy or sore.  The usual fall or winter cold may last 10-14 days.  True influenza (with much more fever and body aches in the beginning) may last up to three weeks (the cough is the last symptom to leave).  So, when would an antibiotic help?  If our symptoms are not improving at all by the 7th or 8th day or you do did feel better but then relapse with return of fever and thicker, greener nasal discharge.  These would be symptoms that alert you to go visit your healthcare provider.

Sam Watts, MD

Questions can be submitted directly to the providers, called in to Mercy Clinic at 417/876-5851 or submitted through their new App

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