The recent frigid temperatures and extra stress put on so many by hurricane Sandy, more and more people have been getting sick this winter. In our office, we have seen many patients with cold/flu like symptoms and wanted to take a moment to go over a few key facts to clarify any confusion you may have about how you can find out what you have and the best ways to treat it as well as some preventative tools to hopefully help you to avoid getting sick.
Different kinds of infections
Many of you most likely already know that infections can be either bacteria or viral.
Bacterial Infections – usually need antibiotics to help your immune system fight it
Viral infections – antibiotics are not effective and will not help you to feel better but can only make things worse as the use of unnecessary antibiotics can make you resistant and will not be effective when you truly need them.
Because antibiotics are not effective against viral infections, it is very important to find what kind of infection you have as taking unnecessary antibiotics can kill off good bacteria in the intestines leading to digestive problems and yeast infections and can also contribute to antibiotic resistance (when you need them for real, they will not work)
I recently had a bout with a persistent upper respiratory infection that had me feeling off for several weeks (unfortunately Alyssa got it from me as well since we work in a fairly small space) and after talking to several patients that seemed to have a similar experience, I wanted to explain the situation and hopefully help others from having to g through the same thing.
So how do you know what type of infection you have?
If you are not better in 2-3 days after onset of symptoms, you should see a health care provider that can perform some very simple tests to help figure out what type of infection you have. A doctor will often perform a rapid strep test where they will swab inside your throat and put it into a special solution that will produce a positive or negative result in just a few minutes. Strep A is a very dangerous bacteria that if not treated, can cause serious health complications and the rapid strep test looks for that specific strain. If that test is positive, antibiotics such as Amoxicillin are necessary to make sure the bacteria does not harm your system. As many of you know, I am not usually a fan of antibiotics, but in these cases, you do not have a choice and you do not want to mess around with this bacteria. If the test is negative however, it DOES NOT automatically mean your infection is viral. This is because there are many different bacteria aside from Strep A that can attack your system and therefore a throat culture is extremely helpful. Also, it is important to note that the rapid strep test is not always 100% accurate and does have false negatives, especially if its done at early onset of symptoms so it can be missed without a culture.
To do a throat culture, the medical provider will use another cotton swab and swipe the back of your throat often trying to get any potential post nasal drip and that will get sent to the lab. Even if the rapid stress test is positive, I still recommend doing a culture to see if that is true and if any other infections are present (rapid strep tests are very effective but they do not identify any other bacteria aside from Strep A). Even if you don’t have a terrible sore throat, a culture can still be helpful as the stuff that drips down from your nose often ends up in your throat and can be collected for the culture. It normally takes a few days for a culture result and we suggest waiting for those results if possible before taking any medication (unless of course the Strep A test was positive). If the culture comes back positive, that is confirmation the infection is bacterial and antibiotics will be needed. Furthermore, labs will often provide specific medications that will be effective against the infection that is present to make sure you are taking the best medication for your case. If the culture is negative, that is confirmation your infection is not bacterial and therefore viral and antibiotics are not needed because cultures can only grow bacteria and not viruses.
In my situation, my rapid strep test was a faint positive (the test resembles a pregnancy test where 1 line is negative and 2 lines is positive) and the doctor was quick to prescribe amoxicillin and did not feel it was necessary to send out for a culture. I didn’t push for it (and now kicking myself for it) and just let it go. After 10 days of amoxicillin, I was not feeling 100% and experienced intermittent cough, sore throat and congestion. I went to an ENT and asked for a culture and a few days later got a call from the doctor that the culture was in fact positive for a bacteria called Moraxella. I explained to the doctor that I already took a course of Amoxillin but unfortunately found out that most strains of Moraxella produce something called β-lactamase and are thus resistant to to Amoxicillin and I had to take yet another 10 day course of a stronger antibiotic called Augmentin. As you can imagine, I was less than thrilled that I now had to take 10 more days of medication, but at this point what I had turned into bronchitis and I didn’t have a choice. In my situation, it’s likely that the strep and Moraxella were there together which is why I didn’t feel completely better after the first course of antibiotics. Had I done a culture right away and saw the other bacteria, I would have taken the Augmentin from the beginning and avoided the extra antibiotics. But as they say, you live and learn right! So just wanted to share this so that others do not have to experience what I went through.
Things you can do to protect yourself if you have to take an antibiotic
If you do in fact have to take an antibiotic, there are precautions you can take to prevent the negative effects of the antibiotics. As you probably already know, antibiotics destroy all bacteria, good and bad as they do not always know the difference. Therefore, taking a strong probiotic is extremely important both during and for at least 2 weeks after the antibiotic course. While taking antibiotics, take your probiocits about 2 hours away from the medication is possible so that the antibiotic doesn’t kill off the probiotic on the spot.
We recommend using the Probiotic 225 as that one comes in a convenient sachet with each serving containing 225 billion organisms (yes that is A LOT!) and perfect to replenish during and after antibiotics. Alternatively, we also use Probiotic Synergy Powder as the amount of the powder can be titrated up to increase the dosage as necessary. Both of these will help prevent digestive discomfort, help immunity and replenish good bacteria. If you experience a lot of diarrhea with antibiotics which is another possibility, the Recolonize 1 is the perfect option and will help eliminate loose bowels right away.
For women who are prone to yeast infections, taking probiotics is especially helpful, however for those of you who are particularly prone, taking probiotics orally does not always do the trick because the bacteria gets used up in the digestive track and doesn’t always make it to other places. In these cases, probiotic vaginal suppositories work amazingly well, we are very excited as we have been getting great results with them. Probiotic Feminine Suppositories are formulated to contain various strains to compliment your natural bacteria, they are very small and neat and easy to use, forget those creams and wearing panty linters to bed! They are great for prevention while on antibiotics but also work on existing infections and can help to clear it up without the use of those harsh and messy creams and without having to take Diflucan which has to travel through your whole system to work, is not always effective and has various side effects.
Another thing that is important to keep in mind is that illnesses such as sinus infections, bronchitis and pneumonia do not usually start out as that. Oftentimes an infection that is not properly treated will linger and ends up turning into some of these other conditions.
How contagious are these?
Alyssa unfortunately got my infection so generally they are pretty contagious and it is helpful to stay home and rest for a few days to prevent spreading to others. If you have a bacterial infection that is being treated with antibiotics, your ability to spread the infection will go down significantly after 24 hours of treatment. It is also important to know that bronchitis, sinus infections and pneumonia are not always contagious in themselves. It is usually the original bacteria that cause the illness and then progresses to these other inflammatory conditions so you cannot catch bronchitis from someone else, but you can catch the original infection that made that person sick.
If your infection is viral
If all the tests are negative, you can be more assured that your infection is in fact viral and antibiotics are not going to help and therefore are not needed. In these cases, rest, lots of fluids and immune support nutrients will help to fight the infection quicker. At CNW, our favorites are:
Mycoferon – a powerful mushroom extract
Lomatium – a natural anti-viral herb
Liquid Vitamin C – immune booster and antioxidant delivered in a liposomal form for superior absorption.
Zinc Supreme – concentrated zinc and synergistic nutrients for immune strength.
These are great to take for a current infection and they can also be used to strengthen the immune system overall in the winter months to help prevent illnesses before they start.