|Get Smart About Antibiotics Week|
This one-week observance educates consumers and medical professionals about the dangers of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use.
Understanding the risks of antibiotic resistanceAntibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria to resist an antibiotic. Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria carry several resistance genes and become what is known as a superbug. They pass on their resistance trait to their offspring, which results in an entire generation of bacteria to become fully resistant to the antibiotic medicines that once worked well against them.
Overuse of antibiotics has greatly accelerated the development of these superbugs, as has incorrect diagnoses, unnecessary prescriptions, and improper use of antibiotics by patients. So, even when properly prescribed, resistance to the drug can occur in your body if you are not using the antibiotic as prescribed.
Key message: Antibiotics do not fight viral illnesses!Taking antibiotics for colds can be harmful to your health. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that unnecessary antibiotics use can make future infections harder to treat. They advise that parental pressure has much to do with whether or not a doctor prescribes an antibiotic. With that in mind, it’s important to work with your child’s healthcare provider to find the best treatment for your sick child.
Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Colds, flu and most sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics don’t affect viruses.
But too often, parents seeking relief for a child’s runny nose ask the doctor for antibiotics, or adults call the doctor and ask for an antibiotic for ordinary cold symptoms, when that is not necessary. Whether out of compliance or lack of understanding, some doctors will go ahead and prescribe an antibiotic for cold symptoms.
|Dark shading indicates highest use of antibiotics in the U.S.|
Many people have either missed the message about appropriate antibiotic use or they simply don’t believe it. The CDC reports that, according to public opinion research, there is a dangerous and misguided perception that “antibiotics cure everything.” As this antibiotics use map shows, the problem is greater in some states than in others.
Many Americans believe in the power of antibiotics so much that many patients go to the doctor expecting to get a prescription. And they often get them, either because physicians often are too pressured for time to engage in lengthy explanations of why antibiotics won’t work or because, when the diagnosis is uncertain — as many symptoms for viral and bacterial infections are similar — doctors are more likely to yield to patient demands for antibiotics.
Risk of Antibiotic ResistanceThe problem is, taking antibiotics when they are not needed can do more harm than good. When we take an antibiotic unnecessarily, we can actually increase our risk of developing a future infection that will be resistant to an antibiotic, since our body builts up a resistance. Antibiotic overuse is also the reason bacteria becomes resistant and therefore threatens you and your family.
When do Antibiotics Work?Antibiotics are great for curing bacterial infections, such as strep throat. Antibiotics should not be used, however, for viral infections. Common viral infections for which antibiotics should not be used include:
- Colds or flu;
- Most coughs and bronchitis;
- Sore throats not caused by strep;
- Runny noses; or
- Sinus infection (antibiotics may be appropriate though, if your child has acute bacterial sinusitis, which is caused by bacteria.)
Colds and FluThe CDC recommends that children and adults with viral infections recover when the illness has run its course. Colds caused by viruses may last for two weeks or longer. Measures that can help a person with a cold or flu feel better include:
- Increase fluid intake.
- Use a cool mist vaporizer, saline nasal spray, or neti pot to relieve congestion.
- Soothe throat with ice chips, sore throat spray or lozenges (for older children and adults).