The future of antibiotics depends on us. Why, you ask? There are at least 47 million antibiotic prescriptions prescribed each year that are unnecessary.
There is no doubt that antibiotics save lives and are critical tools for treating numerous infections, from urinary tract infections and strep throat, to the more serious infections like sepsis. But what antibiotics won't treat is viruses such as colds, the flu, or mononucleosis. Any time antibiotics are used when they are needed, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance, one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health.
Antibiotic resistance is a common problem that occurs when bacteria in your body change. This makes it difficult for the medicine to fight the bacteria because it is repeatedly exposed to the same medicine. It can also be a result of bacteria being left in your body. These bacteria will multiply and become stronger, so that one day you might get an illness that can’t be treated by antibiotics.
Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Of those 2 million, at least 23,000 people die as a direct result, with many more dying from complications from antibiotic-resistant infections.
What Can I Do to Avoid Antibiotic Resistance?
Being aware of how to use antibiotics correctly is one of the best things you can do for your health, the health of your family and your community. Remembering the following points can help you avoid antibiotic resistance:
1. Antibiotics save lives. When you’re prescribed an antibiotic, take it in its entirety. In this instance, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects or antibiotic resistance.
2. Antibiotics aren’t always the answer. Don’t pressure your doctor to prescribe antibiotics.
3. Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as colds and flu, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow or green.
4. Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics also won’t help some common bacterial infections including most cases of bronchitis, many sinus infections, and some ear infections.
5. An antibiotic will not make you feel better if you have a virus. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment. Ask your primary care doctor about the best way to feel better while your body fights off the virus.
6. Taking antibiotics creates resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them.
7. If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about your antibiotics, or if you develop any side effects.
Ask Your Health Care Practitioner About Antibiotic Resistance
Your health care practitioner is a great resource when it comes to antibiotic resistance. You can ask them the following questions to determine if antibiotics are the right answer for your particular illness.
• How do I know whether my infection is from bacteria or a virus?
• Can certain vaccinations protect me or my child from certain bacterial infections?
• Is an allergy to an antibiotic a sign of antibiotic resistance?
• Can my doctor refuse to give me an antibiotic if I ask for one?
• Can my symptoms improve without an antibiotic?
Antibiotics have served as the cornerstone of modern medicine, which is why improving antibiotic prescribing and use has become a national priority. During U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week, we hope to raise awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use. So, make sure you are doing your part to use antibiotics responsibly! Speak with your health care practitioner if you have any questions or concerns about your antibiotic use.
Don’t have a health care practitioner? We can help with that! Community Care has primary care offices located throughout the Capital Region. For assistance with finding a doctor, please visit our website at https://www.communitycare.com/doctors/ or call our Concierge Care Coordinator at (518) 782-3800.