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It's pretty common to dish out penicillin derivatives for colds to ward off any secondary infections. Clarithromycin is also a pretty common treatment for strep throat, but there is quite a bit of resistance among streptococci to it (at least in my part of the world). Perhaps Japanese strep are weaker :) Odaiji ni!


My friend was just prescribed antibiotics but told he had a cold. I'm guessing either a placebo effect or maybe to ward of secondary infections to boost your immune system?

Or as had happened with me a few times in Japan, the doctor didn't think I would know the word for what was wrong in Japanese and just said I had a cold (rather than bronchitis).

Mama BoK

I think it might just be a asian thing.. ;) back home in singapore. .they do that too. But in Canada.. i hardly taken any antibiotics.. for the last 7 yrs.


Good to hear you are doing well. Sometimes, just looking at the back of your throat, you can tell if it's bacterial or viral...not always, though.

I haven't been in Japan in a while, but here in the US, patients are also bombarded with antibiotics. Fortunately, there is a trend to correct this madness that is starting to make a difference.

Compared to Canada, there is a real incentive to prescribe certain types of medications to patients in the US...a very bad incentive if you ask me. I am not sure if such a thing exists in Japan...I highly doubt it.


Not in your case, but I think doctors give antibiotics for everything here because they simply don't know what is wrong with you. People, specifically woman and the elderly, rush in to the doctor so fast when they are just the slightest bit sick that the doctor can't pinpoint what the actual problem is. The give antibiotics hoping that it will help whatever the problem is, and because the sick person expects them to do something. They can't very well say, "Oome back later when you are really sick and have symptoms I can diagnos."

If you talk to any doctors who treat children, if they are honest, they will admit that mothers rush their kids in so fast that they don't have any specific symptoms yet, just things like a slight fever which could be anything, you know. It takes time for other symptoms to develop which will give a more clear picture of what the problem is. Because people rush in so fast, I think most of the time Japanese doctors are just guessing really. I also think that is why they refer to everything as a "kaze" too.

chii chii

Doctors give away antibiotics because sometimes all you can do for a cold is let it go over and heal itself. But if a doctor doesnt give any medicine to you, then patients start complaining, not even knowing that they dont need antibiotics. What you said is true, antibiotics arent for viruses, they are only for bacterial infections.

Did you know that penicillin is no longer as effective against bacteria as it used to? Because every patient demands antibiotics (penicillin and others) even when they arent sick, or when they dont need them, then the bacteria eventually get resistant. And what is the result? That there will be no more cure for simple bacterial diseases! This is all with the advent of anti bacterial hand washes and people being too clean for their own good.

Remember, a little dirt does you some good! Thats what my doctor told me. So many children now are getting so weak and feeble. Children of long ago were so hardy. NOt now, because parents keep them wrapped in cotton wool. Well they are children, so let them play in the dirt and let them eat some worms, because thats whats gonig to help them to build up an immunity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Hayley, thanks for the info. But isn't dishing out antibiotics terribly irresponsible? Especially since it's obviously causing resistance. I don't know for sure because it's not really common to see a doctor for a cold in my part of Canada, but I do think the docs are far more conservative with antibiotics than they are in Japan.

Quiana, that's terribly condescending, but I don't doubt it. Or maybe the doctor told you had a cold because, as Sherry pointed out, the word "kaze" can mean so many things, including bronchitis, strep throat, the flu, and general sickness. Hope you got over your bronchitis quickly!

MamaBok, so it's not just Japan!

Naoyuki, thanks-- I was diagnosed right after he saw my throat, so I see what you mean. Maybe a swab is not always necessary.
I've often thought that doctors here in Japan did have incentives to prescribe drugs, because they always give so many of them. Maybe not as much as in the US, but I do think it happens here too.

Sherry, that makes sense. I know people tend to rush to the doctor for the tiniest thing. What is it about fevers here? Back home in Canada we didn't even own a thermometer...

Chii chii, you're preaching to the choir! Just one thing though: patients NEVER complain to doctors here in Japan, so there is no excuse for the wanton antibiotic use here.

Martin F

Yes, dishing out antibiotics terribly irresponsible, you are right and most doctors in Japan know it.

If they gave you antibiotics, they probably thought it was going to help you. Why not ask?


I had a horrible cold a few weeks ago which turned into a sinus infection, yet the dr.( here in Canada) refused to give me antibiotics until the strep culture came back( negative because I knew I didnt have strep). Oy, I actually miss my doctor in the states.


Hi Blue Lotus,
Love your blog. Glad to hear that you are on the mend. From what I have been told Strep is so common here (in Japan) that they usually don't bother testing for it. It still bothers me how everything from strep throat to sinus infection is catagorized as a cold.
Genki de

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