Antibiotics – Will They Work When You Need Them?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come out with new antibiotic use guidelines. About 50% of prescriptions from out patient settings are either inappropriate or unnecessary. This matters because about 2 million infections each year are antibiotic resistant, causing 23,000 deaths per year.

Using antibiotics inappropriately can actually create stronger strains of bacteria. This concept is called antibiotic resistance. When we take antibiotics and don’t use them the right way, we can actually make the bacteria stronger and then, antibiotics that used to cure an infection, no longer work.

It is important for us all to do our part.

Strep throat, staph infections and some types of pneumonia are treated with antibiotics.

For viruses causing colds, flu, most ear infections and bronchitis, antibiotics are useless in treating these illnesses. It is important to have a physician distinguish bronchitis from pneumonia and prescribe the right antibiotic, if it is needed.

So, for the cold or flu, don’t even think of taking antibiotics. Most times rest and fluids are what is needed to get better.

There are three things we can do to make a big difference:

  1. When prescribed an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, do not skip doses and finish all the antibiotics: the weakest bacteria get killed first and you want to make sure you take the medication until all the bacteria are completely gone;
  2. Do not share your antibiotics with someone else as their illness may not be the same as yours or it may not be the right antibiotic for their illness;
  3. Do not ask for an antibiotic when your physician does not think you need them. Pressuring a health care provider can lead to more antibiotics being prescribed and the more used, the more resistant they can become.

Together we can preserve the power of antibiotics.

For more information, visit: www.cdc.gov/getsmart