Letter: Vital facts about viral illnesses

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From Dr Helena Savin and

Dr Adrian Richards

Sir: In your edition of 4 January, you have two articles referring to the treatment of viral illnesses with antibiotics. "Seles set to revive Grand Slam momentum" referred to Monica Seles being "laid low with a virus" and, later, how, following blood tests, she was put on antibiotics. A second article, "Acne drug may relieve Gulf War sickness", similarly implies that antibiotics can be effective in treating a syndrome which, according to US Senate sources, is a viral illness.

Both of these references imply that viruses can be treated by antibiotics. This is not the case. Viral illnesses do not respond to antibiotic treatment.

Much of GPs' time is taken up discussing with patients how, contrary to general public belief, a penicillin-like prescription will do nothing for their cold or flu.

This winter has seen many people suffering with a very unpleasant flu virus. Many will sit for some considerable time in surgery waiting rooms in the hope of a prescribed cure. They would certainly be better served by buying a pharmacy remedy and staying in bed.

Yours faithfully,

Helena Savin

Adrian Richards

London, SW4

6 January

From Mr Paul Brownsey

Sir: According to the Consumers' Association (In Brief: "Drugs warning", 4 January) pharmacists are failing to give enough customers enough advice when selling them over-the-counter medicines.

On the contrary, chemists in the West End of Glasgow seem bent on counselling you whether you want counselling or not. You can't even buy a packet of aspirins without being catechised by a wee assistant: "Are these for yourself?"

"Are you taking any other medication?" "Do you suffer from ...?" And so on.

Some of us do check these things out for ourselves and don't need this tedious compulsory advice. Couldn't we be given the chance to forego it?

Yours faithfully,

Paul Brownsey


5 January