Over the years, the medical profession has seen the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. This is due in part to the overuse and abuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics are strong drugs used in the treatment of bacterial infections only. Antibiotics will not help viral infections. Ear infections, some sinus infections, strep throat and urinary tract infections are common bacterial infections. Illnesses such as cold, flu, most sore throats and most coughs are caused by viruses. Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to future antibiotic resistant infections. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), up to 50% of the time antibiotics are either not needed or not prescribed properly. Antibiotics are also commonly used for promoting growth in food animals, one type of use that is not necessary.
Superbugs are bacteria that have grown resistant to the antibiotics ordinarily used to kill them. These germs can survive even after the full course of antibiotics. This may make them resistant to the same antibiotic when used again, causing a need for stronger antibiotics. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections*.
If you are ill and see your physician, do not pressure your doctor into giving you a prescription for antibiotics if he feels you do not need them. If antibiotics are prescribed for you, there are certain steps you should take. Be sure to take the medicine exactly as prescribed- taking it the correct number of times during the day as well as the prescribed length of time. Do not stop taking the medicine just because you are feeling better. If the full course is not followed, there is a greater chance that all the bacteria will not be killed.
Staying healthy and avoiding infections in the first place will reduce the need for antibiotics. Hand washing remains the best way to prevent the spread of germs. Keeping up-to-date with immunizations, and safe preparation of food are just a few more ways to reduce your chances of coming down with an infection.
Patti Fisher RN BSN CIC
Infection Prevention Coordinator