Health Education

Resist Asking for Antibiotics - By: Mary Ellen Pratt, FACHE, CEO

Kassie Roussel - Thursday, August 10, 2017 | Comments (0)
In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a landmark report sounding the alarm of the urgent threat facing human health - antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotics and similar drugs, together called antimicrobial agents, have been used for the last 70 years to treat patients who have infectious diseases. Since the 1940s, these drugs have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases. However, these drugs have been used so widely and for so long that the infectious organisms the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are germs that don’t respond to the drugs designed to kill them (such as antibiotics) and are the cause of a minimum of 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the United States annually.  It is a complex problem and could be catastrophic if we don’t take action.  

So, what should you do?

First, get smart and learn about safe use of antibiotics.  
Antibiotics are life-saving drugs to treat bacterial infections, but not all illnesses need antibiotics. Some ear infections and most sore throats do not require antibiotics to treat.  Green colored mucus is not a sign that an antibiotic is needed.  Colds, flu, most sore throats, and bronchitis are caused by viruses and antibiotics do not help fight viruses. Plus, taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics also can have side effects.  Antibiotics cause 1 out of 5 emergency department visits for adverse drug events and they are the most common cause of emergency department visits for adverse drug events in children under 18 years of age.

Second, take action by using antibiotics appropriately.  Here are tips for how to use antibiotics wisely.
  • Ask your healthcare professional about what you can do stop or slow antibiotic resistance. 
  • Ask your healthcare professional if there are steps you can take to feel better and get relief from your symptoms without using antibiotics. 
  • Take the prescribed antibiotic exactly as your healthcare professional tells you. 
  • Safely discard any leftover medication. 
  • Never take an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or flu.
  • Never pressure your healthcare professional to prescribe an antibiotic.
  • Never skip doses or stop taking an antibiotic early, even if you no longer feel sick, unless your healthcare professional tells you to do so.
  • Never save antibiotics for the next time you become sick and do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. 
Third, make sure your healthcare provider has an antibiotic stewardship program. 
The goals of antibiotic stewardship are to choose the right antibiotic at the right dose and for the right length of time. Healthcare providers and pharmacists around the world understand that the more antibiotics are used today, the less likely they will still work in the future. Therefore, they are trying to use antibiotics responsibly. Hence, this is called antibiotic stewardship. Antibiotic stewardship programs are designed to make sure that every patient gets the most benefit from antibiotics, reduce the risk of allergic reactions and side effects and help save antibiotics for the future.  

The next time you are sick, think twice before requesting an antibiotic… you might be hurting yourself more than helping.  

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