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Monday, November 17, 2014

My Favorite Infections


Urine infections are number one. Handing over a packet of antibiotics, I can assure a woman who has been running to the bathroom every half hour that she’ll feel better by the next morning. In men, urine infections are usually prostate infections; these resolve more slowly, but they resolve.

Eye infections (“pinkeye,” conjunctivitis) respond quickly to antibiotic drops; those that antibiotics won’t help (viral conjunctivitis which may be more common) also go away quickly. Since doctors prescribe drops for almost every red, irritated eye, we find these satisfying to treat.

Bacterial intestinal infections respond to antibiotics but most occur in poor parts of the world. They’re rare in the US where vomiting and diarrhea usually mean a “stomach virus.” Fortunately for everyone, these are generally short-lived, and I carry medicines that help.   

Amazingly, experts debate whether antibiotics help a middle ear infection. Doctors in many nations don’t prescribe them, but Americans do, so patients give us credit when they get better. We like that.

Even more amazing, experts don’t debate whether antibiotics help respiratory infections. All agree that they don’t, mostly. If you’re otherwise healthy and suffer a cough (a cold that hangs on, mucus that turns green, bronchitis), we can cure you – if it’s pneumonia. Otherwise, it’s a virus that lasts a few days to a week or two no matter what we do…. Yes, antibiotics don’t help “bronchitis.” Google it you don’t believe me.

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