Is a Z-Pack for a Cold Worth Dying For?

In Blog, Featured, Women's Health Topics by Dr. Gary Goldman

“Doc – I need a Z-pack for my cold!” Is that Z-pack worth dying for?

The common cold season is upon is. It began a couple of weeks ago, and extends through March. A cold is caused by a virus, the most common of which is called a rhinovirus. Other viruses include the corona virus, parainfluenza virus, adenovirus, enterovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus.

Viruses are not susceptible to antibiotics. Antibiotics work against bacterial infections. The Z-pack, a five-day course of Azithromycin, is an excellent way to treat a variety of bacterial infections, including: Acute Bacterial Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Acute Otitis Media, Genital Ulcer Disease (Chancroid), Acute Bacterial Sinusitis, Community-Acquired Pneumonia, Pharyngitis/Tonsillitis, Uncomplicated Skin/Skin Structure Infections, Cat Scratch Fever, Urethritis/Cervicitis, Pertussis, Acute Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, and Mycobacterium Avium Complex Infection.

I’m sorry – did I forget to include ‘The Common Cold” on that list? No – because the cold is not bacterial, and the Z-pack does nothing for it.

So, what’s the harm of taking a Z-pack?

Last year, the FDA issued a warning about the use of Azithromycin, noting that several studies found it “can cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart that may lead to a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm. Patients at particular risk for developing this condition include those with known risk factors such as existing QT interval prolongation, low blood levels of potassium or magnesium, a slower than normal heart rate, or use of certain drugs used to treat abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias.” Yes indeed – in some cases, use of a Z-pack can induce a heart arrythmia which can be fatal. Read more here:

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm341822.htm

Then there’s that issue of antibiotic resistance. The more we use antibiotics inappropriately, the more we create bacteria that are resistant. And when we develop an overwhelming infection and the antibiotics we have at hand don’t work, the results can be fatal. Both physicians and patients are to blame for the long-standing practice of treating colds with antibiotics, and both physicians and patients together must find the path back to using antibiotics only when clearly necessary.

Read more about antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections here:

http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html

http://www.who.int.mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/