Prevent Antibiotic Resistance

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for medical providers to treat bacterial infections due to an upswing in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “antibiotic resistance occurs when germs change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of the drugs available to treat them.” Overusing and misusing antibiotics can cause this type of resistance, leaving you vulnerable to infections that may have otherwise been easily treated. The overuse of antibiotics can also cause increased drug side effects, allergic reactions, diarrheal infections and, in extreme cases, death.

In order to prevent antibiotic resistance, patients, health care providers, hospital administrators and policy makers must all work together. You may think that as a patient your role in this process is limited, but that’s not the case! You can help by doing the following:

  • Take antibiotics exactly as the doctor prescribes. Complete the treatment as prescribed, without skipping doses, even if you begin to feel better.
  • Only take antibiotics prescribed to you. N ever share or use antibiotics prescribed to someone else. Antibiotics are designed to treat specific types of infections, and taking the wrong kind may delay treatment and even allow bacteria to multiply.
  • Do not save antibiotics. If you are taking your medication correctly, you should usually have little or none leftover. If you do, however, discard it once your treatment is complete; don’t let anyone else use it or save it for another time.
  • Prevent infections. Antibiotics are unnecessary if you aren’t fighting an infection, so practice good hand hygiene and get all recommended vaccinations.
  • Don’t ask for antibiotics if your doctor thinks you do not need them. Antibiotics have side effects, so taking one if it is not necessary may do more harm than good.

It’s a common misconception that antibiotics are good treatments for cold and flu, but this is simply not true. Colds and influenza (the flu) are caused by viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics. Prevention is, of course, the best medicine for colds and flu – practice good hand hygiene, cover your coughs and sneezes and get a flu shot. If you do get sick, though, stay home to avoid making others ill. Colds can be treated with over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines, while the flu may be treated with antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu. You will need to see your doctor for information about this.

Every year, there are fewer and fewer types of new antibiotics being developed, making it more important than ever for all of us to do our part in preventing antibiotic resistance. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.