Since the discovery of antibiotics in the 1920s, our abilities to treat infections have greatly improved. While these drugs have been greatly beneficial over the years, we face a growing concern about antibiotic resistance – a growing problem all over the globe.
Overuse and misuse of antibiotics are the greatest contributors to antibiotic resistance. Some believe that antibiotics are a cure-all; this simply isn’t the case. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. The common cold, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis and many sinus and ear infections are caused by viruses – which means an antibiotic will not:
• Cure the infection;
• Keep other individuals from catching the illness;
• Help you feel better.
In fact, taking antibiotics for non-bacterial infections can cause more harm than good by increasing your risk of getting an antibiotic resistant infection later on.
Antibiotics can kill healthy bacteria – allowing room for more harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium difficile (C.diff) – to grow in its place. Antibiotics are also the most common cause of emergency visits for adverse drug events in children under 18 years of age.
Get smart about antibiotics
The best thing you can do to protect against antibiotic resistance is to educate yourself about when – and when they are not – needed.
Here is what you can do:
• Do not pressure your provider to prescribe an antibiotic.
• Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else; it may not be the best choice for your illness.
• Ask your healthcare provider about what you can do to stop or slow antibiotic resistance; let them know you are concerned about this issue.
• Ask if there are steps you can take to feel better and relieve your symptoms without using antibiotics.
• If prescribed an antibiotic, take it exactly as instructed, and do not skip doses; taking antibiotics improperly can be harmful.
• Take all of the medication unless your provider instructs you otherwise.
• Safely discard any leftover medication – do not save them for the next time you or your child is sick.
• Ask about vaccinations to prevent infections that are caused by bacteria and viruses.
Let’s change the way we think about and use antibiotics.
Dr. Jason Clemons is a primary care physician at Brookwood Baptist Health, Primary & Specialty Care Talladega.