Doctors in Britain will soon be told to stop prescribing antibiotics for coughs, colds and sore throats. Overuse of the drugs is fuelling the spread of deadly antibiotic-resistant super bugs. A new government program aims to diminish the use of the drugs.

Most colds, coughs and flu are caused by viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics since antibiotics only work on bacteria.

Overuse of antibiotics has been blamed for the rise of drug-resistant tuberculosis. If antibiotic use is not curbed, doctors could run out of effective treatment for some diseases.

* The Telegraph January 9, 2008

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

I am not opposed to antibiotics; they do have an important use under the right circumstances. However, I do believe that well over 95 percent of the time antibiotics are prescribed, they are completely unnecessary, and even worse, cause serious side effects that are sometimes fatal.

Additionally, this unrestrained use of antibiotics in the past has now caught up with us and led to new super-bugs, such as the drug resistant MRSA -- which is why you should never ask your doctor for antibiotics when you suffer from colds, coughs, sore throat, ear aches and flu. These are caused by viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics anyway, and usually clear up on their own.

Several common antibiotic ingredients have become less effective due to the increase in drug resistant bacteria, including:

* Amoxicillin
* Cefaclor (used for chest infections)
* Trimethoprim (used to treat urinary tract infections)

The Dangers of Antibiotic Misuse

Unnecessary use of antibiotics can also leave your body susceptible to gut infections like clostridium difficile by stripping your natural, healthy bacteria from your gut. Clostridium difficile can then take hold and might cause death in vulnerable people, especially the elderly.

By killing not only bad bacteria but also all of the good bacteria, antibiotics weaken your already compromised immune system, which can lead to all sorts of diseases and additional ailments. Antibiotics are also linked to:

* Tripling the risk of asthma in babies
* Increasing your breast cancer risk
* Increasing your risk of allergies, including food allergies due to the alteration of the normal terrain of your intestines

The bottom line is that, more often than not, simple infections -- from ear infections to even some urinary tract infections -- clear up without a need for antibiotics, particularly if you're eating right, exercising, and leading an overall healthy lifestyle.

Healthier Options For Common Ailments

Keeping your immune system in good working order will prevent most bugs from proliferating and causing disease in the first place. Eating a proper diet based on your nutritional type will help you do just that by keeping you in optimal health. Avoiding sugar and fruit juices will also help.

Here are some other, healthier options for preventing or treating ailments that are commonly mis-prescribed with antibiotics:

Ear infections -- Avoiding pasteurized milk is one of the best proactive solutions to prevent ear infections. If your child does develop an ear infection, a simple solution is to put a few drops of breast milk in the ear canal every few hours. This usually works to clear up the infection within 24 to 48 hours and is far safer, less expensive and a better solution than putting the child on antibiotics.

Simple wounds -- As a natural antimicrobial remedy for wounds, try raw honey instead, which is a natural antimicrobial that works wonders when applied topically.

Common cold and flu - The most helpful remedy for reducing cold transmission is to wash your hands frequently with plain soap and water. Remember that antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary here as well and cause far more harm than good.
Simple zinc lozenges can help speed up your recovery from a cold, if you do get one, by almost half. But perhaps one of the best tricks I ever found for treating colds and flu's is simply putting a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in your ears.

Sinus infections - Drink hot liquids such as tea or chicken soup, and apply warm compresses to your face. Irrigating your sinuses using a nettie pot filled with a saline solution can also speed up your recovery.

If for some reason you do have to take an antibiotic, always make sure to supplement with probiotics: There is a common confusion that one should wait until finished with the antibiotic to start taking probiotics. Even though the antibiotic is killing the good bacteria, that is exactly when you need it the most. So I would triple the dose of probiotics, as it will tend to prevent the common diarrhea complication many have with the antibiotic.