Antibiotics are the drugsyour doctor prescribes totreat infections caused bybacteria. Since the 1940s, they havebeen "the first line of defense" intreating bacterial infections. Yet,the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention (CDC) estimatesthat more than half of all antibioticsprescribed are not necessary.
Antibiotics are not effectiveagainst viruses and thereforeshould not be used to treat them.Common examples of infectionscaused by viruses include coldsand flu.
Overuse and inappropriate useof antibiotics can make them notwork when you need them,because bacteria develop resistanceto them. This resistance causes thebacteria to thrive and potentiallycause more harm.
What Is Antibiotic Resistance?
The development of antibioticresistance is one of the most challengingproblems in health caretoday. It occurs when the bacteriachange in a way that reduces orstops the effectiveness of antibiotics.When this occurs, the bacteriacan survive and continue togrow and strengthen.
If you take antibiotics and reallydo not need them, they may losetheir strength and ability to effectivelytreat the bacteria. The mostimportant way to reduce or preventantibiotic resistance is by educatingyourself about the properuse of antibiotics.
Steps to Reduce Antibiotic Resistance
When to Take (or Not to Take)Antibiotics
Knowing when you may needan antibiotic depends on the kindof infection you have.
The first step is to consult yourphysician to determine whetheryour infection is bacterial or viral.Always consult your doctor if yoususpect that you have an infectionof any kind.
Colds and Flu
As stated above, viruses causethese diseases. Antibiotic therapywill not cure them. Talk to yourhealth care provider about themany over-the-counter medicationsavailable to treat the symptomsof colds and flu.
Remember to inform your doctoror pharmacist about all themedications you are currently takingso as to avoid harmful druginteractions.
Viruses typically cause sorethroats, but bacteria, such as instrep throat, can cause some. Yourphysician may do a culture and asensitivity test before prescribingantibiotic therapy.
Both viruses and bacteria cancause these infections. If you havea runny nose with yellow or greenmucus, you may need an antibiotic,so consult your physician.
These infections do not alwaysrequire antibiotic treatment, becauseboth viruses and bacteria cancause them.
Coughs and Bronchitis
Viruses almost always causethese conditions. However, if youhave had a medical problem withyour lungs before, bacteria may beinvolved, and an antibiotic may beprescribed. Consult your doctorabout any prolonged coughs, especiallycoughs with phlegm.
Proper Use of Antibiotics
When an antibiotic is prescribedfor you, you should take the followingsteps:
Antibiotics can be very powerfulin treating bacterial infectionswhen they are used properly. Tomaintain their effectiveness, theyshould be used only when necessary.
The best way to combat infectionsis to educate yourself andthose around you on the properway to treat infections withoutcausing harm or making thingsworse.
Ms. Terrie is a clinical pharmacy writerbased in Slidell, La.