Updated 13 August 2019

Why you should hesitate before you medicate

Why and when antibiotics are needed for colds and flu – and when they’re not.

It’s cold and flu season in South Africa and with that comes the annual game plan of how to stay healthy. But getting through a winter without developing some type of cold, cough or running nose is easier said than done. 

Cold winter weather creates the perfect environment for common colds and flu viruses to replicate and spread. Cold temperatures also make your body’s immune system weaker and less able to fight off viruses.

When we get sick, if our attempts to self-medicate with over the counter products don’t work quickly, our general perception is that an antibiotic is the only solution. Yet colds and flu are viral infections, which cannot be treated with antibiotics, and overuse of antibiotics to treat viral infections is one of the reasons the world is facing an enormous threat of antibiotic resistance.  

Antibiotics are important medications. Penicillin and other antibiotics used for treating bacterial infections, preventing the spread of disease and reducing serious complications of disease are invaluable and lifesaving. But the incorrect or over-use of antibiotics can further inhibit your immune cells from doing their job. According to a 2017 study by researchers from Harvard and MIT, immune cells called macrophages were found to be less effective at fighting off infection when exposed to antibiotics, because the antibiotic inhibits respiratory activity in immune cells.  

When an antibiotic no longer influences or works against a strain of bacteria, those bacteria are said to be antibiotic resistant. Antibiotic resistance is a widespread problem - one that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls "one of the world's most pressing public health problems." Bacteria that were once highly responsive to antibiotics have become more and more resistant. Treating these resistant bacteria requires higher doses of medicine or stronger antibiotics, and some no longer even respond to even the most powerful antibiotics available today. In recent years, tackling antibiotic resistance has been a high priority for the World Health Organisation (WHO). As part of its global action plan on antimicrobial resistance, two of the strategic objectives are to reduce the incidence of infection and to optimize the use of antimicrobial medicines.  Every infection prevented is one that needs no treatment.  Moderating antibiotic prescriptions, preventing infections and identifying effective alternatives to antibiotics is now a priority.  

So, when are antibiotics needed?

Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria. We rely on antibiotics to treat serious infections, such as bronchitis, sinusitis, pneumonia (which are often the complications or secondary infections that develop from colds, flu and respiratory tract infections), and life-threatening conditions including sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection. 

And when are antibiotics not needed?

Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as those that cause colds, flu, viral bronchitis, or runny noses.

Every infection prevented is one that needs no treatment

How do you avoid needing antibiotic treatment? Firstly by minimising your risk of cold and flu infections, and secondly not letting your cold and flu developing into a secondary / bacterial infection. 

A.Vogel’s Echinaforce is a product worth considering for this job. It’s been clinically proven to help strengthen the body's resistance to cold and flu viruses. It not only reduces your risk of getting sick but it’s also effective at treating and relieving the severity and duration of symptoms. 

Perhaps more importantly, recent research has shown Echinaforce helps prevent the bacterial complications of colds and flu like sinusitis, otitis, tonsillitis, bronchitis and pneumonia in adults (by 50%) and children. In fact, in children it can reduce their risk of complications by 65% and their need for antibiotics by over 70%.  (An interesting fact is that because it’s natural, viruses and bacteria cannot develop a resistance to Echinaforce, so you can use it year after year.)  

What can you do to feel better if you have a common cold or flu?

Try over-the-counter medications and home remedies to help relieve your symptoms:

  • Cough: Expectorant or cough suppressant, nasal spray, humidifier
  • Nasal congestion and sinus pressure: Nasal or oral decongestant, nasal spray, humidifier, hot compresses, steaming with decongesting essential oils.
  • Sore throat: Lozenges, humidifier, warm teas with honey and lemon, warm water with salt gargles
  • Fever:  Avoid the temptation to fully suppress a fever from the outset. By doing so you are suppressing your immune response. Fever is the body’s way of killing the virus. In the case of very high fever, consult your doctor or healthcare provider.

To help your body fight a cold or flu, use natural supplements like A.Vogel’s Echinaforce, drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated, and increase your vitamin C intake. Foods like blueberries, citrus fruits, spinach and broccoli are rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C and vitamin E – all of which can feed your immune cells. And rest up! Your body needs to rest in a warm, comfortable place to help your immune system fight the virus that caused your cold or flu

Be kind to yourself and prevent rather than cure, hesitate before you medicate and take care this winter. 

Talk with your healthcare professional about the best treatment for you or your loved one’s illness. If you do need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed.

*Do not use A.Vogel Echinaforce Drops or Tablets if you are:

  • Allergic to Echinacea or to plants in the Asteraceae (Compositae) family
  • Individuals who suffer from any form of autoimmune disease or who are taking immunosuppressants must please consult their healthcare practitioner before using this product
  • As with any medication, always inform your healthcare practitioner of all medicines you are taking, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

This post is sponsored by A.Vogel Echinaforce produced by Brandstudio24 for Health24. 


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