As a child, my Mom’s attitude was, if you’re sniffing, snotting or coughing, head for the doctor and get an antibiotic. Each winter season we visited the doctor at least once and swallowed at least one course of antibiotics.
As I grew up, I and the world, become a little more enlightened, the mantra in the Evans household was adjusted.
Since most sniffs, snots and coughs are caused by a virus, and antibiotics don’t work against viruses, visits to the doctor for an antibiotic were only made if the copious excretions from the respiratory tract, were a funny colour.
Yellow and green were signs of a secondary bacterial infection needing antibiotic treatment. Clear secretions were just annoying and required lots of TLC and monitoring.
The world has become even more enlightened
Researchers at Cardiff University investigated whether coughing green NEEDS an antibiotic. They studied 3402 patients from 14 centres across Europe.
They confirmed that spitting up green goo, typically resulted in a script for an antibiotic. Confirming the collective wisdom, that coughing up green or yellow phlegm is BAD !
But their analysis showed, the standard antibiotic prescription issued for colourful coughs, had little effect on recovery rates.
Green or white, go light on antibiotics
A cough, in an otherwise well adult, is unlikely to kill you. It will go away (i.e. it is self-limiting) – with or without the help of an antibiotic.
Swallowing the antibiotic won’t speed up the recover, but it will
- Cost money
- Expose you to unnecessary side effects, from the increasingly potent antibiotics
- Seriously undermine your microflora, which play a vital role in gut health and immunity
- Increase the odds, that when you really need an antibiotic, it won’t work too well because of drug resistance
Tough it out and cough it up
So green phlegm is not always a medical emergency.
Sooth the irritation with a little honey in hot milk or a spoonful of cough mixture – the cough will pass.
PS. If the cough sounds like a pit-bull barking and you’re wheezing each time you gasp for a breath of air – you need an antibiotic. Go immediately to your GP, do not pass begin etc. You need an antibiotic.
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