Champion HHC Health Information Library
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What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are medicines that fight bacterial infections in people and animals. They work by killing the bacteria or by making it hard for the bacteria to grow and multiply.
Antibiotics can be taken in different ways:
- Orally (by mouth). This could be pills, capsules, or liquids.
- Topically. This might be a cream, spray, or ointment that you put on your skin. It could also be eye ointment, eye drops, or ear drops.
- Through an injection or intravenously (IV). This is usually for more serious infections.
Antibiotics only treat certain bacterial infections, such as strep throat, urinary tract infections, and E. coli.
You may not need to take antibiotics for some bacterial infections. For example, you might not need them for many sinus infections or some ear infections. Taking antibiotics when they're not needed won't help you, and they can have side effects. Your health care provider can decide the best treatment for you when you're sick. Don't ask your provider to prescribe an antibiotic for you.Do antibiotics treat viral infections?
Antibiotics do not work on viral infections. For example, you shouldn't take antibiotics for:
- Colds and runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green
- Most sore throats (except strep throat)
- Most cases of bronchitis
The side effects of antibiotics range from minor to very severe. Some of the common side effects include:
- Yeast infections
More serious side effects can include:
- C. diff infections, which cause diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and sometimes even death
- Severe and life-threatening allergic reactions
- Antibiotic resistance infections
Call your health care provider if you develop any side effects while taking your antibiotic.Why is it important to take antibiotics only when they're needed?
You should only take antibiotics when they are needed because they can cause side effects and can contribute to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance happens when the bacteria change and become able to resist the effects of an antibiotic. This means that the bacteria continue to grow.How do I use antibiotics correctly?
When you take antibiotics, it is important that you take them responsibly:
- Always follow the directions carefully. Finish your medicine even if you feel better. If you stop taking them too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you.
- Don't save your antibiotics for later.
- Don't share your antibiotic with others.
- Don't take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. This may delay the best treatment for you, make you even sicker, or cause side effects.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
When you breathe in, the air travels down through your trachea (windpipe). It then goes through two tubes to your lungs. These tubes are your bronchi. Bronchial disorders can make it hard for you to breathe.
The most common problem with the bronchi is bronchitis, an inflammation of the tubes. It can be acute or chronic. Other problems include:
- Bronchiectasis - a condition in which damage to the airways causes them to widen and become flabby and scarred
- Exercise-induced bronchospasm - a breathing problem that happens when your airways shrink while you are exercising
- Bronchiolitis - an inflammation of the small airways that branch off from the bronchi
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia - a chronic lung condition in infants, most often premature infants
What is the flu?
The flu, also called influenza, is a respiratory infection caused by viruses. Each year, millions of Americans get sick with the flu. Sometimes it causes mild illness. But it can also be serious or even deadly, especially for people over 65, newborn babies, and people with certain chronic illnesses.What causes the flu?
The flu is caused by flu viruses that spread from person to person. When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks, they spray tiny droplets. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person may get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.What are the symptoms of the flu?
Symptoms of the flu come on suddenly and may include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. This is more common in children.
Sometimes people have trouble figuring out whether they have a cold or the flu. There are differences between them:Signs and SymptomsColdFluStart of symptomsSlowlySuddenlyFeverRarelyUsuallyAchesSometimes (slight)UsuallyFatigue, weaknessSometimesUsuallyHeadacheRarelyCommonStuffy nose, sneezing, or sore throatCommonSometimes
Sometimes people say that they have a "flu" when they really have something else. For example, "stomach flu" isn't the flu; it's gastroenteritis.What other problems can the flu cause?
Some people who get the flu will develop complications. Some of these complications can be serious or even life-threatening. They include:
- Ear infection
- Sinus infection
- Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis), or muscle tissues (myositis, rhabdomyolysis)
The flu also can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may have asthma attacks while they have flu.
Certain people are more likely to have complications from the flu, including:
- Adults 65 and older
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than 5
- People with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease
To diagnose the flu, health care providers will first do a medical history and ask about your symptoms. There are several tests for the flu. For the tests, your provider will swipe the inside of your nose or the back of your throat with a swab. Then the swab will be tested for the flu virus.
Some tests are quick and give results in 15-20 minutes. But these tests are not as accurate as other flu tests. These other tests can give you the results in one hour or several hours.What are the treatments for the flu?
Most people with the flu recover on their own without medical care. People with mild cases of the flu should stay home and avoid contact with others, except to get medical care.
But if you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider. You might need antiviral medicines to treat your flu. Antiviral medicines can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They also can prevent serious flu complications. They usually work best when you start taking them within 2 days of getting sick.Can the flu be prevented?
The best way to prevent the flu is to get flu vaccine every year. But it's also important to have good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often. This can help stop the spread of germs and prevent the flu.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Homeless Health Concerns
What are the causes of homelessness?
Each night, hundreds of thousands of people experience homelessness in the United States. Some of these people experience chronic homelessness, while others have temporarily lost their shelter. The reasons why they are homelessness are complex. They can include a combination of factors such as:
- Lack of affordable housing
- Mental and substance use disorders
- Trauma and violence
- Domestic violence
- Justice-system involvement
- Sudden serious illness
- Death of a partner or parent
Poor health can contribute to homelessness. And being homeless can contribute to poor health. Many of the problems that people experiencing homelessness face can make their health worse, including:
- Limited access to health care
- Problems getting enough food
- Trouble staying safe
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Exposure to severe weather
Some of the common health problems that people experiencing homelessness may have include:
- Lung diseases, including bronchitis, tuberculosis, and pneumonia
- Mental health problems
- Substance use problems
- Wounds and skin infections
Many people experiencing homelessness are dealing with trauma. They may have been abused or assaulted. This includes homeless children, who are at risk for emotional and behavioral problems.
Contact your local homelessness assistance agency to get the help you need, such as access to shelters, health centers, and free meals.
Interstitial Lung Diseases
Interstitial lung disease is the name for a large group of diseases that inflame or scar the lungs. The inflammation and scarring make it hard to get enough oxygen. The scarring is called pulmonary fibrosis.
Breathing in dust or other particles in the air is responsible for some types of interstitial lung diseases. Specific types include:
- Black lung disease among coal miners, from inhaling coal dust
- Farmer's lung, from inhaling farm dust
- Asbestosis, from inhaling asbestos fibers
- Siderosis, from inhaling iron from mines or welding fumes
- Silicosis, from inhaling silica dust
Other causes include autoimmune diseases or occupational exposures to molds, gases, or fumes. Some types of interstitial lung disease have no known cause.
Treatment depends on the type of exposure and the stage of the disease. It may involve medicines, oxygen therapy, or a lung transplant in severe cases.