As we enter the cold and flu season, take pause. I know it’s annoying to have itchy eyes, a runny nose and a bothersome cough, but I’d like to talk with you about the challenges of overmedicating.

Society has broadly sought medication as a silver bullet since the discovery of penicillin and the mass manufacturing of antibiotics. Antibiotics aren’t needed for a benign viral illness yet we continue to prescribe costly medications without clear and obvious justification and in doing so, we’ve created a situation in which antibiotic-resistant bacteria are flourishing.

My social experiment regarding this topic was on my own two daughters — both daughters grew up without taking antibiotics. One daughter actually had asthma, exacerbated by nut allergy.  Yes, my daughters benefited from having a family physician father who was easily accessible to be on the lookout for a change in signs or symptoms to suggest something more serious, like a secondary bacterial infection.   I am sure there were times that my daughters thought I was a quack because I had the MD but they didn’t have medication, whereas their friends were on medications just to treat a common cold.

I am not inferring that everyone can and should follow this exact path of managing common ailments.  But I have to believe that easier access to qualified resources that can define a course for monitoring and caring for symptoms and ailments in a more conservative way can go a long way to reduce unnecessary medication and cost.   It is hard to argue quality because at the end of the seven-to-10 day illness, both approaches end with the resolution of the cold or flu symptoms.  This requires a change in attitude and expectation that medication is the answer to all ailments.

And by the way, it is OK to cough when one has a cold or flu.  It is natural and desirable to cough out all that phlegm and mucous.  Fevers are also OK, as long as the temperature is not excessively high.  We try to fight the body’s natural defense mechanism) by trying to make them go away and get back to normal.

Let’s allow our bodies to do their jobs, realize that when we catch a cold or flu, it isn’t going to go away overnight, and focus on optimizing what we can for the smoothest path to health and recovery.