Can you take a Z pack for a cold?
Doctors may recommend using the Z pack occasionally, and they may explain some things to consider before using it. Prevention may be the best tool against the common cold.
In this article, we discuss whether or not the Z pack is safe to use, its impact on antibiotic resistance, and how to prevent the common cold.
Is the Z pack safe?
A person should only use a Z pack under a doctor's supervision.
Some people have concerns about the Z pack itself due to azithromycin, which is the active ingredient in the medicine.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued a safety warning about the drug, noting that the antibiotic may cause abnormal changes in the electrical activity of the heart.
This could lead to potentially fatal complications in some cases.
Some people are more at risk of experiencing difficulties from using this antibiotic, including those with:
- low blood levels of potassium or magnesium
- a slower-than-normal heart rate
- arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat
- prolonged QT interval, or an irregularity that causes very fast and erratic heartbeats
The FDA warn health professionals to consider the risk of fatal heart rhythms in people who are at risk of cardiovascular events before prescribing antibacterial drugs such as azithromycin.
Does using the Z pack add to antibiotic resistance?
Overusing antibiotics threatens the safety of the population by contributing to antibiotic resistance.
Bacteria constantly adapt, which is how they continue to infect the human body. The more often bacteria interact with drugs such as antibiotics, the more they must adapt. This makes them stronger.
Antibiotic overuse may eventually lead to antibiotic resistance. This essentially means that the bacteria have become immune to the antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that each year in the U.S., antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause more than 23,000 deaths.
So, it is best to reserve the use of antibiotics for serious infections.
Uses and effectiveness
Doctors tend to prescribe a Z pack to treat a strong bacterial infection. It is an oral medication that a person can take with or without food, and the dose depends on the severity of the infection. Like most medications, it works on some types of illnesses and does not work on others.
Taking the entire course of the Z pack treatment is important. Even if the person feels better before finishing the course, incomplete treatment may lead to the infection coming back or make future infections harder to deal with.
Cold and flu
It is important to note that these are viruses. Antibiotic medications such as the Z pack target bacteria and will not affect a viral infection. The Z pack is not effective against the cold or flu.
Antibiotics are effective in treating the condition because it is a bacterial infection. Despite this, the Z pack or azithromycin is usually not the first choice for treatment. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics such as amoxicillin or penicillin to treat strep throat.
Where other medications fail, or a person is allergic to these antibiotics, doctors may recommend using azithromycin. This drug is effective at killing the bacteria.
Pneumonia or bronchitis
A thorough diagnosis by a healthcare professional is very important.
This is part of the reason why a thorough diagnosis is so important. If a healthcare professional sees signs of a particularly strong pneumonia or bronchitis infection, they may recommend antibiotics.
Antibiotics such as azithromycin would be effective in these cases, since the underlying issue stems from bacteria.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, azithromycin, the active ingredient in Z pack, may also be helpful against other infectious diseases, including:
- bacterial sinusitis, a sinus infection
- urethritis, an infection of the urethra
- cervicitis, an infection of the cervix
- genital ulcer disease
- ear infection
- some skin infections
Treatment still depends on what bacteria are causing the underlying infection. This is why a thorough diagnosis is important in each case before a doctor can recommend antibiotics.
Should I take a Z pack for a cold?
There is no reason to take a Z pack to treat a cold. The common cold is a viral infection, most often a rhinovirus. Viruses are not susceptible to antibiotics such as the Z pack.
Specific antivirals may target and kill viruses, but the Z pack is not one of them. Taking the Z pack will not help with a cold in any way.
Effective cold remedies
A person should drink extra water when they have a common cold.
The common cold usually lasts a few days, and the body can deal with it without outside help.
So, in general, there is not much that a person needs to do when fighting a cold, as the body will do the most work.
However, there are some things a person can do to help support the body, including:
- drinking extra water
- getting plenty of rest
- avoiding too much activity
If symptoms become uncomfortable or interfere with daily life, over-the-counter drugs may help treat symptoms until the body can get rid itself of the underlying infection.
Some drugs, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), target symptoms individually, which helps reduce fever and pain. Other drugs, such as cough syrups, may contain different medicines to treat many symptoms at once.
Always follow the instructions on the label and avoid using these drugs in children. Some drugs have children's versions available, and anyone who is uncertain should talk to their pediatrician before dosing their child.
Preventing a cold
The common cold tends to go away on its own, as the body deals with the underlying viral infection. There are still steps a person can take to help prevent the cold or prevent the spread of the cold.
- regularly washing the hands
- covering sneezes and coughs with a tissue
- avoiding touching the face or other people's faces
Most common illnesses, such as the cold and flu, do not generally require antibiotics. The viruses will not respond to antibiotics at all, so using them is unnecessary unless a bacterial infection is present.
If a bacterial infection is getting out of hand or the person's health or life is at stake, the doctor might recommend antibiotics.
There is no reason to take a Z pack to treat the cold. Anyone with concerns about their health during cold and flu season may want to consider discussing their options with a healthcare professional and taking measures to protect themselves from airborne viruses.