UAE docs warn against winter chill pills

Study reveals duration of symptoms of mild chest infection in patients treated with antibiotics no different to those given placebo

Antibiotics are ineffective against most mild chest inefections and have negative health effects, claim UAE doctors.

The majority of mild chest infection cases are not caused by a bacterium, and antibiotics would be ineffective in those cases. That is what Michael Loubser, Specialist Pediatrician at Infinity Clinic commented when the results of a study were published in the United Kingdom this month.

The study found that the severity and duration of the symptoms of a mild chest infection in patients treated with antibiotics were no different to those given a placebo.

People get better on their own and do not need antibiotics to recover from a mild chest infection, was the conclusion of doctors.

However, reality learns that in the UAE patients often leave the doctor with a prescription for antibiotics, regardless of the health problem they have.

"Antibiotics are way overused by patients with mild respiratory infections," agrees Michael.

According to him a rough 75 per cent of all cases of mild chest infection among children turn out to be viral infections. Among healthy adults too, bacteria are not likely to be the cause of the infection. And antibiotics are there to fight certain bacteria.

"What happens is that the patient will half-way through the medication realise that the antibiotics are not making the situation better and then they stop taking the medication. This use of antibiotics encourages resistance against antibiotics."

Earlier this website reported of the overuse of antibiotics by UAE residents. In this article pathologist Sunita Vaidya, Lab Director of Aster Diagnostic Centre was quoted as saying: "Quite frequently we see bacterial strains resistant to multiple antibiotics."

When a patient overuses antibiotics, the resistance against the medication grows and the bacteria become more aggressive every time, requiring a stronger medication to resist it, explains Michael.

"There is an increasing number of bacterial organism and no new antibiotics are coming up."

Another negative effect of the use of antibiotics is the fact that the medication has some strong side-effects, which can be diarrhoea, rash and vomiting. Although the medication in many cases does not fight the source of the problem, other health problems are added.

"In some cases the patient needs to treat the side-effects of the antibiotics after competing. This is a very costly procedure without any benefits," comments Michael.

For these reasons antibiotics should only be prescribed when necessary, thinks Michael. That is in the case of particular health risk groups, such as people with long emphysema, or when proper evidence shows that there is a case of bacterium infection.

But in any case, this requires an assessment of the patient: "We always assess every patient before prescribing any medicine. But a lot of doctors give the prescription for antibiotics upon only hearing from the patient that they have a chest infection," says Michael.

The responsibility lies with the patient too, the doctor thinks. "Many patients expect the treatment of antibiotics and doctors then give in to the patients' wishes.

"But a doctor should also be able to explain why it is better not to take the medication. This research might help in doing so."

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