State health officials are urging Iowans not to overuse antibiotics. Dr. Patty Quinlisk, the medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, says taking antibiotics for colds or the flu won’t do any good because they’re not effective against viruses.

Quinlisk says doctors should also take responsibility and not overprescribe “We do try to work with health care providers to make sure they know how to deal with patients who might insist on having antibiotics,” Quinlisk says,

“Usually doctors know not to use antibiotics,” but there are cases when you don’t know whether it’s bacterial or viral. Doctors shouldn’t overprescribe when pestered by a patient. She says many times, over-the-counter products like pain relievers and decongestants will go a long way in easing symptoms.

Quinlisk says antibiotics will not work for things like sore throats or a cough because those are likely caused by a virus. She says they do work, however, for illnesses caused by bacteria, if they are taken as prescribed.

“When you start taking antibiotics, you will often start feeling better pretty fast, but you also have to remember, sometimes those bacteria will hide out in your body and if you stop taking antibiotics too soon, it will just come back again,” she says. “It’s really important if you’re given a five-day course or a 10-day course of antibiotics, you take all those antibiotics.”

She says it’s especially important for fussy children who don’t like taking pills. Antibiotic resistance is a growing world-wide problem that’s caused, in part, by the misuse of the drugs.