I remember when my family doctor would prescribe antibiotics when one of us would have a cold or flu bug. It never failed that a few days later we'd thank our doctor for the regimen of antibiotics that helped "cure" our ailment.
Of course, it wasn't the antibiotics -- the bug had just run its course. Treating a virus with a drug designed to kill microbes isn't really sensible, and why that practice went on for so long can only be attributed to the fact that in Western medicine, we expect the doctor to give us a prescription. The family doctor wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't give you that slip of paper on your way out the door.
While there are still some MD's who are too liberal with the prescription pad, most doctors realize that overuse of antibiotics has become a very serious problem, leading to a resistance in disease-causing bacteria that may render antibiotics ineffective for certain conditions. Now, you are most likely to get an antibiotic only if you have an associated nasal or ear infection along with your cold or flu.
Still, there are MD's who prescribe long regimen's of antibiotics for other ailments, such as Lyme Disease. In this condition's early stage, the antibiotics may indeed be helpful. However, many people who suffer through Lyme Disease have an extended period called Post Lyme Syndrome (PLS) and these patients who have received antibiotic regimens for Lyme disease sometimes have persisting symptoms.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America has issued new guidelines that recommend MD's stay away from long-term use of antibiotics. It recommends that antibiotics "do not improve the outcome in people with chronic symptoms after customary treatment of Lyme disease. Specifically, further treatment does not improve overall health quality of life, memory, or depression."
Long-term antibiotic use can be associated with such side effects as diarrhea, blood stream infections, and blood clots.
There is a great book by authors Richard Brown, MD, and Pat Gerbarg, MD, called "The Rhodiola Revolution." (The book is linked to the headline of this post). In that book, Dr. Pat Gerbarg describes her rapid healing from the depths of Post Lyme Syndrome by the use of the herb Rhodiola rosea.