• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Rich Barlow

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 9 comments on Cold or Flu? Don’t Ask for Antibiotics

  1. I understand not prescribing antibiotics when they are not necessary, but last year Student Health would not prescribe me antibiotics for a sinus infection from Hell that I’d had for weeks and wasn’t going away. It would be more effective if you could also decide when it is necessary to prescribe them. I had to suffer for over a month with my sinus infection until it was apparent that it wasn’t going to get better on its own, and only then could I get antibiotics. I basically had to beg for them. It was ridiculous, affected my schoolwork, and made my semester pretty miserable.

    1. I have to agree, Meowsy. As an undergrad, I was told that Student Health would not prescribe antibiotics until you had been sick for at least 10 days. I got sick 10 days before Thanksgiving, and instead traveled home to see my family doctor- who told me that I was on the brink of pneumonia and should have had antibiotics a week ago, and that BU’s policy was flat-out negligent.

      My husband had a similar incident as a grad student at BU as well: he was sick for 6-8 weeks, went to Student Health three times, and was told that colds normally take 8 weeks to go away, and that he probably was asthmatic. Only on the third visit when both of us went into the exam room and absolutely demanded treatment was he given antibiotics. He started improving almost immediately after the first dose.

      I agree that people shouldn’t be given antibiotics for colds, but that is no reason to deny treatment to someone who actually needs it.

      1. That’s what happened to me! I was so bad that I was on my way to getting pneumonia. I even had the bacterial kind of sinus infection, so antibiotics definitely made sense to treat it, but still they denied me. It’s not like I had anywhere else to go. Like I said below, they tell you stuff like to rest, but you get in trouble for missing class. If you ask for an excuse to miss class for illness that says you’ve been to SHS, they won’t give you one. So basically, it’s tough crap if you get sick at BU and don’t live in the area.

      2. Great discussion. Just to ground some of the conversation…we at SHS have no “policy” against the use of antibiotics. We recommend thier use when they are clinically appropriate, no matter how long an individual has been ill. There is the misunderstanding that using antibiotics early in a viral infection will “prevent” the progression to a secondary bacterial one…secondary bacterial infection being a relatively uncommon result of viral infections. No one likes to be sick longer when they need to, but an unfortunate reality is that adults experience 2-5 colds per year and children six to ten. College aged people likely lay somewhere in the middle of that. A typical cold lasts a week to two weeks and one’s body solves the problem in that time.

        Our practice represents our ongoing review of the best available medical evidence and active conversations with our colleagues at the School of Medicine (at which several of us are faculty). From this active review, we have a clear position of avoiding contributing to the “vast overprescription” (thanks Dr. Lamorte) of antibiotics that current literature clearly supports.

  2. listen kid, that’s not how it is. “McBride’s advice: drink lots of liquids, stay in bed, and take cough and pain medicine.” for crying out loud we are all adults here. some of us have EXAMS to take and we cant stay in bed. how about some real advice instead

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