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June 25, 2019


ThedaCare Pharmacist Explains the Spread of Resistant Bacteria

June 25, 2019

Viral Illnesses Like Bronchitis, Common Cold Aren’t Resolved By Antibiotic Use 

ThedaCare Pharmacist Explains the Spread of Resistant Bacteria

NEENAH, Wis. – In the grip of a miserable illness like bronchitis or a bad head cold, it’s understandable for patients to want something that offers fast relief so they can get back to work, school and their busy schedules.

“There’s no doubt that antibiotics are extremely important in medicine,” said Trevor Schmidt, PhD, ThedaCare Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacist. “The concern is when we’re using antibiotics and don’t need to do so.”

ThedaCare providers want the public to know that antibiotics are used to treat specific issues. When unnecessarily used, there can potentially be unintended consequences in the form of bacterial resistance and side effects like diarrhea, rash and yeast infections. 

Patients visiting outpatient providers are often suffering from viral illnesses, mistakenly believing that antibiotics are the cure, Schmidt said. Antibiotics, in fact, are not effective against illnesses usually caused by viruses—like bronchitis or the common cold—they are meant for bacterial illnesses, like urinary tract infections or strep throat.

Schmidt explained there are ways to improve symptoms without using antibiotics. It is important to speak with your provider, ask questions, and understand the treatment plan.

“Resistance is a problem. We have antibiotics that have fallen out of favor due in the United States to high resistance rates because of unnecessary overuse,” said Schmidt. “We’re trying to reduce exposure to antibiotics for problems that aren’t solved by them to preserve their value and effectiveness. The more people that are exposed to antibiotics, the higher the risk of resistance in the general population.” 

Strains of resistant bacteria can be spread person to person, or from surfaces like doorknobs, just as with any contagious infection.   

In place of using antibiotics to treat bronchitis or other upper respiratory infections, providers are focused on offering more symptom-relieving, over-the-counter remedies like antihistamines, pain relievers, hot teas and honey. While people may believe the antibiotics have brought relief from symptoms in the past, Schmidt explained it was likely due to the supportive care of rest, over-the-counter medication and fluids.

“For those with viral illnesses, there are ways that you can feel better that don’t involve exposing yourself to antibiotics,” he said.

For those who have bacterial infections and should use antibiotics, finding the correct one to use is important. Schmidt explained that some may believe they have an allergy to penicillin when they do not. Reactions to penicillin that are side effects but not allergies can include nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea. True allergic reactions can include hives, chest tightness and difficulty breathing, he said.

“Penicillin is an antibiotic, that is unlikely to cause adverse effects compared with other types of antibiotics,” Schmidt said. “When it’s necessary to use antibiotics, we want to use something like penicillin whenever we can.”

Patients should talk with their providers about the timing and factors around what they believe to be a penicillin allergy to help them select the best treatment.

“The more we can understand about the possible allergy and what happened, allows us to better select antibiotics for the patient,” Schmidt said. “That gives us the best chance of avoiding adverse side effects and offering the best outcome.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.