Chances are, you’ve been prescribed an antibiotic at some time during your life. In fact, you might think you should be prescribed antibiotics every time you’re feeling cold or flu symptoms. Antibiotic use is widespread and as a result, infectious organisms have adapted to become more resistant to antibiotics. According to the CDC, people infected with these antimicrobial-resistant organisms are more likely to require long hospitals stays and may be more likely to die from complications of infection.
Antibiotics and You
According to the National Institutes of Health, Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses. This includes colds, flu, most coughs and most sore throats. If you’ve been prescribed antibiotics when you have a cold, it’s likely been because you developed a secondary infection such as a sinus or ear infection. Every time you take antibiotics, you are increasing the chances that bacteria in your body will be able to resist the effects of antibiotics. This is why it’s especially important to avoid taking antibiotics when you don’t need them.
What You Can Do
Take measures to help reduce the development of antimicrobial-resistant organisms, sometimes referred to as super bugs for their ability to resist antibiotics.
- Take the antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor. If you don’t finish the course, you run the risk of the bacteria left in your body becoming stronger and more resistant to drugs.
- Never take someone else’s antibiotics or antibiotics left over from a previous prescription.
- Avoid the spread of germs. Take steps to avoid getting sick in the first place. Good hand washing, especially with children, is one of the best first defenses against getting sick.
- Don’t expect antibiotics to cure viruses. Many people visit doctor’s offices asking to get medication to cure their illness. When it comes to viruses and allergies, which cause most symptoms, antibiotics won’t do anything. A virus must run its course.
Understand the Dangers
People who are infected with drug resistant bacteria often need second or third types of drugs to help kill the bacteria. These can be more more expensive, slower, and may have more side effects. These bacteria, including MRSA, are sometimes present in hospital environments but are also being seen outside of health care. As these bacteria continue to evolve and spread, it’s more important than ever to use antibiotics appropriately and only when necessary.