When Are Antibiotics Your Best Choice? 

Have you ever been to the doctor with an infection? Did you receive an antibiotic prescription? If so, you’re not alone. Lots of people have been through this scenario over the last 70 years. And the antibiotics, among the most commonly prescribed drugs, have helped reduce illness and death.

Now that we’ve used these drugs for so many years, some infectious organisms have adapted to the drugs we’ve used to control them. These adaptations are making the antibiotics less effective. The drugs may not slow or stop the infections.

This is what is referred to as antimicrobial resistance (AR).

Now about 2 million Americans each year become infected by bacteria resistant to antibiotics. At least 23,000 of these patients die as a result of their infections.

To address this significant health issue, scientists are working on multiple approaches. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working with a range of experts to fight AR and implement a National Strategy to Combat Antibiotic Resistance. You may hear messages urging us to Get Smart about Antibiotics.

Aurora Health Care is part of the effort to help reduce the number of antibiotic prescriptions for adult patients — especially for outpatient upper respiratory tract infections.

You can help your family reduce the risk for running into a problem related to antimicrobial resistance.

Take These Preventive Steps Suggested By the CDC:

Wash your hands — Cleaning your hands helps prevent the spread of conditions such as diarrhea and respiratory illnesses. If you or someone you’re in close contact with is ill, it’s a good idea to wash your hands more often.

Stay up-to-date with your vaccinations — It’s easier to prevent disease than treat it. Vaccines can protect you, your family and those you come in contact with.

Keep your food safe — Remember these four rules:

Prevent sexually transmitted diseases — The CDC offers fact sheets with helpful information.

Antibiotic resistance is not the only reason to avoid antibiotics when they’re not needed. If your illness is caused by a virus and not a bacteria, the antibiotic will not help you get better. You’ll be taking a medication that you don’t need.

If your illness is a virus, your body has defenses to help fight off viruses. It’s helpful to get plenty of rest, minimize your schedule, stay hydrated with healthy fluids like water and Gatorade-like products. These things will help your immune system stay strong and be more effective in fighting off the virus, so that will help you get well sooner.

You may experience a side affect or an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. So it’s important that you truly need the antibiotic before taking it.

Stay safe when you’re ill — Remember:

  • Viruses cause colds, bronchitis, flu and most sore throats. Antibiotics don’t fight viruses. If you take an antibiotic when it’s not needed, you may increase your risk of an infection later that resists antibiotics.
  • Many viral infections such as colds will go away on their own, but let your health care professional know if the illness gets worse or lasts longer than expected. Consider an over-the-counter medication to relieve symptoms.

If you or a family member is ill, discuss with your health care professional the best treatment options for your situation. If a provider recommends an antibiotic, feel free to ask about antibiotic resistance. We can all be part of the national effort to Get Smart about Antibiotics.

Meet the Author

Katherine Marie Hoyer, MD is a family medicine physician at the Walk-In Urgent Care clinic in Greenfield, Wisconsin

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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