HealthNotes: Blog Edition

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

November 3, 2017

November 13th-19th: Antibiotic Awareness Week

The CDC estimates that in the United States, more than two million people are sickened every year with antibiotic-resistant infections, with at least 23,000 dying as a result. Many more die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistance infection. In most cases, these infections require prolonged and/or costlier treatments, extend hospital stays, necessitate additional doctor visits and healthcare use, and result in greater disability and death compared with infections that are easily treated with antibiotics.

What Causes Antibiotic Resistance?

The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine. However, up to 50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not optimally effective as prescribed.

Viruses or Bacteria – What’s Got You Sick?

Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Viral illnesses cannot be treated with antibiotics.

Using Antibiotics Wisely

Improving antibiotic use starts with you! Using antibiotics wisely is the best way to ensure they work for future bacterial illnesses and prevent unnecessary side effects. The CDC recommends the following tips for how to use antibiotics wisely:

  • Keep up with vaccinations as they help prevent infections that may require antibiotics and help prevent diseases from spreading.
  • Handwashing is one of the best ways to keep yourself and your family healthy by preventing the spread of germs that cause infections.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about symptom relief. Never pressure your doctor for antibiotics. Instead ask for the best treatment for your illness and about how to relieve symptoms so that you can feel better.
  • Only take antibiotics for infections caused by bacteria. Illnesses caused by viruses (common cold & flu) do not improve with antibiotics and using them when not needed can cause harmful side effects and make them less effective against certain bacteria
  • Ask if watchful waiting is best for you. Even some bacterial infections (mild sinus & ear infections) can get better without antibiotics. For some illnesses, your healthcare provider may recommend watchful waiting, meaning waiting a few days to see if you get better before deciding to prescribe antibiotics.
  • Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Even if you feel better, do not skip doses or stop taking an antibiotic early without approval from your provider.
  • Ask about side effects. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about potential side effects of antibiotics.
  • Throw leftover antibiotics away. Never save antibiotics for future illnesses, take antibiotics prescribed for others, or share with others. Talk to your pharmacist about how to dispose of leftover antibiotics.

To learn more about using antibiotics wisely, visit www.cdc/getsmart.

Get Smart - Test Your Knowledge About Antibiotics

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