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Too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Including, and especially, Antibiotics.

Antibiotics are useful only in treating bacterial infections. They don’t work on viruses, including colds and flu germs. And they don’t help with allergies.

Many patients ask me for antibiotics “just in case” for a cough or sniffle. Cold symptoms may resolve by the time you finish the antibiotic course. But the antibiotic has nothing to do with your getting better. Cold symptoms usually resolve in 7 to 10 days anyway.

The frightening fact is antibiotic misuse is dangerous to your health. Taking antibiotics needlessly increases chances of infections with super bugs, resistant to antibiotics. That can mean when you really do need an antibiotic, it might not work.

For women, there is another discomforting reason to avoid unnecessary antibiotics: they can kill good bacteria in the vagina and cause yeast infections. For both genders, antibiotics can also kill good bacteria in the gut and lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria that cause severe diarrhea.

New information published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows as many as half the antibiotics prescribed in the U.S. may be unnecessary.

You may be thinking: well, doctors prescribe them. But patients often insist on them. When given for the right reason, antibiotics can be life-saving. But don’t overdo it.

And don’t self-prescribe. Instead of asking for an antibiotic, or demanding it, ask your doctor if you really need one.