Shelving the Myth About Antibiotics and COPD
Contrary to popular belief, antibiotics are effective in treating only a select group of patients who experience COPD exacerbations. They don't work for everyone. People in this group include those:
- who have an increase in dyspnea, cough and purulent sputum
- who have two of the previously mentioned symptoms, including an increase in purulent sputum
- who have severe exacerbations requiring non-invasive or mechanical ventilation and who have at least one of the previously mentioned symptoms
What About Prophylactic Treatment With Antibiotics?Although controversy exists about whether prophylactic use of antibiotics in COPD is effective in preventing COPD exacerbations, according to the Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), this practice has been shown to have no effect at all on their frequency. Therefore, GOLD guidelines for treatment during a COPD exacerbation state that antibiotics should be used only for exacerbations of COPD caused by a bacterial infection.
Tips for Taking Your AntibioticsIf you've been prescribed an antibiotic, the following tips will help you achieve maximum benefit from their use:
- Remember that antibiotics are ineffective in treating infections caused by a virus, such as the common cold or flu.
- Never take anybody else's antibiotics. Because certain antibiotics target certain bacteria, you can never assume that someone's medication will work for your particular illness.
- Take the entire course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better. Stopping too soon may lead to antibiotic resistance and a worsening of your condition.
- Be sure to read the prescription bottle carefully and follow the directions as per your doctor's instructions. If you don't understand the drug label, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
- Be mindful of any precautionary labels attached to the prescription bottle. For example, a label might say for you to avoid sunlight or drink lots of water during antibiotic therapy.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you should take your antibiotic with food or on an empty stomach. This should also be included on the drug's labeling.
- Ask your doctor about how to deal with side effects such as nausea and diarrhea. If you are a woman, talk to your doctor about the possibility of developing a yeast infection during antibiotic therapy and what you can do to prevent or treat it.
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K. Kostikas1,A.I. et. al. A typical COPD exacerbation? Breathe. June 2008. Volume 4;No 4.
Puhan MA, et. al. Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: when are antibiotics indicated? A systematic review. Respir Res. 2007 Apr 4;8:30.
Ram FS et. al. WITHDRAWN: Antibiotics for exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jan 19;(1):CD004403.
Stolz D. et. al. Antibiotic treatment of exacerbations of COPD: a randomized, controlled trial comparing procalcitonin-guidance with standard therapy. Chest. 2007 Jan;131(1):9-19.