Antibiotics save lives and are critical tools for treating both common and serious infections, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 30% of the antibiotics in U.S. outpatient settings are prescribed unnecessarily.
Unnecessary use of antibiotics can lead to serious side effects and antibiotic resistance, one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health.
Between Nov. 18-24, FirstHealth of the Carolinas will join health care organizations around the country to recognize Antibiotic Awareness Week. The week serves as a chance to educate the public about what happens when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them.
Improving the way health care professionals prescribe antibiotics, and the way people take them, can help more people stay healthy now while fighting antibiotic resistance, and it also ensures that these lifesaving drugs will be effective for future generations.
FirstHealth’s Jolena Allred, DNP, FNP-BC, answers some important questions about antibiotic use and why it is so important for patients and health care providers to be antibiotic aware.
Jolena Allred, DNP, FNP-BC (Courtesy photo).
Q: Why won’t antibiotics help with a virus?
That’s simple. Antibiotics are for fighting bacteria. Viruses, like the flu or common cold, will not improve with the use of an antibiotic. In fact, there are certain upper respiratory tract illnesses, like acute bronchitis and acute sinusitis that have a viral cause and should not receive antibiotics. For instance, 98% of sinusitis cases have a viral etiology, or cause.
Q: I’ve heard that taking unnecessary antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. Why should I be concerned about that?
Any time an antibiotic is used, there is a possibility of it leading to resistance, one of the most urgent threats to our public health. According to the CDC, at least 2 million Americans get infected with antibiotic-resistance bacteria. At least 23,000 people die as a result.
Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics – it means bacteria develop the ability to defeat the antibiotics designed to kill them. When bacteria become resistant, antibiotics cannot fight them, and the bacteria multiply. Some resistant bacteria can be hard or impossible to treat and can spread to other people.
Q: Why is it important to follow prescription guidelines closely for antibiotics?
If an individual is prescribed a course of antibiotics, it is imperative to complete the full course, as this is one of the key ways bacteria become resistant. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about your antibiotics.
Q: What antibiotic side effects should I be on the lookout for?
Common side effects from antibiotics include rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping stomach, yeast infections and dizziness. More serious side effects include severe and life-threatening allergic reactions and Clostridium Difficile (also known as C. diff) infection.
In children, the most commonly reported reason for medication-related emergency room visits has been side effects of antibiotics.