Antibiotic use – Less may be more
Most infections are caused by either viruses or bacteria. Antibiotics are medications that are effective in treating only bacterial infections like strep throat, sinusitis, urinary tract infections, and skin or wound infections. Antibiotics do not work for viral infections like the common cold, most bronchitis episodes, and even some ear infections.
Overuse of antibiotics has significant consequences. There are two reasons we try not to overuse antibiotics. First of all, some patients experience immediate allergic reactions or side effects. A second and more far-reaching reason is that overuse of antibiotics by a large number of people can cause bacteria to develop resistance to the antibiotic. The more bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, the more their structures become altered, ultimately causing the bacteria to be unaffected by the antibiotics we use. This means health care providers will have a harder time controlling the infections in the future that they can control now. This will result in greater complications as infections spread, and increased costs for hospitalizations and the development of stronger antibiotics. For these reasons, it is important that antibiotics are given appropriately and only when needed.
A few final tips to prevent antibiotic resistance:
- Understand when antibiotics should be used.
- Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed if your health care provider does prescribe them
- Never take antibiotics without a prescription.
- Don’t pressure your health care provider for antibiotics if you have a viral illness.
- Protect yourself from infection in the first place: Wash your hands well and often. Handle and prepare foods safely. Keep your immunizations up to date.Being responsible about antibiotic use protects the health of your family as well as the health of your immediate and global communities.