nurse in the health center

Lisa B. Lisius, RN, sits next 

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to a
container of free condoms for
UMF students.
(Photo by Molly Reed)

By Molly Reed, Staff Writer

  The UMF Health Center is frugal in handing out antibiotics and this has left some sick students feeling frustrated. Dr. Susan Cochran, M.D., Medical Director of the Health Center, explained that these medicines can be harmful to the human body and that is why they are not given out easily. “It’s better for you to not use antibiotics, always. Antibiotics have side effects and they wipe out the normal healthy flora in your gut that help aid in digestion,” she said.

   In the past, doctors prescribed more antibiotics and they did so more frequently, this has caused for a large amount of antibiotic resistance to develop and for students to think that they need antibiotics because that was their treatment in the past. “The data has shown over the last twenty years that the vast majority of infections are viral and so when people have a cold and it has lasted for a week or so, they’re pretty convinced that they need an antibiotic,” Cochran said. “More than 95% of them [colds] are viral and those do not respond to antibiotics,” she said.

   Some students have left the Health Center feeling dissatisfied because they were not provided with the antibiotics that they thought they needed. “I had a sinus infection but they [the Health Center] would not provide anything for it,” said Kenny Tarr, a Rehabilitation Services major. “I was frustrated because I could not cure my sinus infection without an antibiotic. I had to go to the hospital because my sinus infection persisted and they gave me antibiotics and it was fixed.”

   It is usually the immune system that rids the body of a cold, not an antibiotic.

“When they [patients] are given an antibiotic after 10 days of having a cold, they were probably just going to get better anyways so they say it was the antibiotic that did it and that’s why they’ll come in earlier and earlier for a cold,” Dr. Cochran said.

   Sophomore Alexa Lyman also left feeling frustrated and unheard. “It was not worth the trip,” she said. “A while after my appointment, when the illness was still going on, I finally had to find a local doctor where I was diagnosed with strep throat, bronchitis, and a sinus infection, after they [the Health Center] told me I only had a minor cold.”

   The Health Center does not have the intention to leave sick students feeling unheard and dissatisfied but it does happen when students don’t understand why antibiotics are not being prescribed. “It’s not as though we are trying to blow people off, we are trying to educate people about non-antibiotic management of their own sort of illnesses,” Dr. Cochran said. “I consider it unethical for most doctors to use antibiotics in situations where they know darn well it’s a virus, and they’re doing it in response to pressure from the patients themselves.”

    “We do understand that students are miserable at times. Colds can make people miserable and the flu can make people miserable. None of those things are treatable except for rest, fluids and your own immune system,” said Dr. Cochran.

   The Health Center does provide antibiotics when the nurse or doctor feels the patient truly needs it, “With a cold, I have them [the patient] do saline lavage and I’ll make deals with them, you try this for two or three days and if you don’t feel better, come back in,” said Dr. Cochran.