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How to know if you need an antibiotic

By: Dr. Alan Christianson

Cold and flu season is on us in a big way. Hopefully you have been lucky but lots of people are getting sick.

If you are sick, how do you know when you need an antibiotic? This is an important question especially now during cold and flu season.

The distinction is between viral and bacterial infections. Antibiotics don’t help viral infections (viruses).

#1Antibiotics are used in many cases in which they are not helpful. This can lead to digestive side effects, more frequent infections, and even more severe side effects.  At the same time, you wouldn’t want to ignore a bacterial infection and be sick longer than necessary.

How can you tell if an infection is viral or bacterial?

Think about four areas in which you can have symptoms:

  • Lungs – productive cough, sense of pressure
  • Throat – pain and burning
  • Sinuses – pressure, pain, congestion, runny nose
  • Ears – pressure, pain

Many find this the opposite of what they would expect, but the more places in which you have symptoms the more likely you are to have a viral infection.

The most common combination would be a cough, sore throat, and a runny nose. In almost all cases, that’s a virus.

Imagine that someone is sick. Remember that most viruses last about 7 to 10 days. The first few days, they’re just coming to terms with the fact that something is not right (days 1-3). Then there are a few days of not feeling well (days 4-6). After that, they’re ready to be done and maybe they’ll go see their doctor and get an antibiotic (days 7-9). Low and behold, in the next one or two days, they find themselves feeling better (days 10-11). They feel that the improvement is due to the antibiotics, when more than likely, their virus has just run it’s course.

If you have really pronounced symptoms in just one area, then you may have a bacterial infection.

#2Say you have a deep productive cough, chest pain, a fever, but NO runny nose and NO sore throat. That could be pneumonia.

Or you have a sore throat, a fever, body aches, and NO cough, and NO runny nose, and NO ear symptoms. That could be strep throat.

The other possibility would be to have ear pain, pressure, distorted hearing and NO sore throat, NO runny nose, and NO cough. That could be an ear infection.

Sinuses are different. Evidence tells us that, even when they are bacterial, sinus infections don’t go away more quickly when you take an antibiotic. In fact, if you do take an antibiotic, you’re more likely to get future sinus infections than if you didn’t.

You may have heard that when your mucus is yellow or dark that you have a bacterial infection. Recent studies that cultured lots of snot of many different colors found that this rule is not true. Also the presence or the severity of the fever is not a reliable difference between viral and bacterial infections.

What is the best thing to do to manage a virus? Hydrate, sleep, and help yourself get a fever.

#3Before bed: draw a warm bath, make some ginger tea, put extra blankets on your bed, and lay out some sweat clothes.

Take a hot bath for 15 minutes while drinking the ginger tea. Put on the sweat clothes and go to bed with extra blankets on you. This will stimulate a natural fever which will get the virus out of your body faster.

If you are really in a rush, get an intravenous dose of vitamin C. Why is IV vitamin C stronger than vitamin C pills? With pills, they have to go through your intestinal tract. If you take more than 10,000 mg or so, you’ll probably get watery diarrhea and quit absorbing the vitamin C.

The problem with this is that it will prevent you from getting a high enough level of vitamin C in your bloodstream to kill the virus. With IV vitamin C, you can safely receive doses many times higher than this which can kill the viruses that cause routine colds and flus, like rhinovirus and influenza viruses. In fact, this effect is so strong, that vitamin C IV’s are being studied in a large clinical trial to see if it will also eradicate active shingles infections.

If you’re in the Phoenix area, and not feeling your best, please print and bring in this coupon to receive our Super Immune IV with vitamin C and glutathione, and save $10 today!

If you are not an existing patient at Integrative Health, we’ll be happy to set up a time with one of our docs along with your first visit so we can help you move towards your health goals.


Dr C full res(c) 2015- Integrative Health Care, PC

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Dr. Alan Christianson is an Arizona-based Naturopathic Physician who helps people overcome adrenal and thyroid disorders and achieve lasting fat loss.  He authored the New York Times’ bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease.  Dr. Christianson is the founding physician behind Integrative Health.

Dr. Christianson can be reached at, and 480-657-0003.

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