Understanding Antibiotics Makes Communities Healthier

Antibiotics are effective drugs that help many people get well every day. However, antibiotics have become so common that some bacteria have built up antibiotic resistance, meaning certain infections no longer respond to antibiotics. World Antibiotic Awareness Week aims to help people be antibiotics aware. Knowing the importance of taking antibiotics correctly helps to decrease antibiotic resistance and makes communities healthier.

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The drug that is not always the answer

Antibiotic resistance occurs when people use antibiotics too often, unnecessarily, or to treat the wrong issue. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has called antibiotic resistance a public health concern. When certain bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, the result can be more complicated illnesses, more frequent doctor’s visits, and a need for stronger, more expensive drugs. While antibiotics are effective in treating some illnesses, they are not always necessary.

What kind of infection is it?

Antibiotics work only on bacterial infections. Using antibiotics on viral infections can lead to antibiotic resistance and can also cause unnecessary side effects such as rash, dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea. The use of antibiotics on viral infections won’t make someone better, and it also won’t protect others from the infection.  Some examples of bacterial infections include strep throat, whooping cough, and UTIs. The common cold and flu are viral infections that do not need antibiotics. Some sinus or ear infections can be either bacterial or viral, and a medical professional can best assess whether antibiotics are needed in these cases.

Fast facts to avoid antibiotic misuse. Because antibiotics are so critical and effective, it’s important not to misuse them.

  • Take antibiotics only when prescribed and exactly as prescribed.
  • Know antibiotics only work on bacterial infections.
  • Do not save antibiotics to use later.
  • Do not use antibiotics that have been prescribed to someone else.
  • Avoid the spread of infection by practicing proper hand hygiene and leading a healthy lifestyle.

Partner with your healthcare provider

When antibiotics are needed, they are crucial medicines and save lives. Though antibiotic resistance is a problem to keep in mind, when a doctor does deem antibiotics necessary, the benefits of antibiotics outweigh the side effects and potential problems. Healthcare providers and patients can work together to prevent antibiotic resistance. Patients should never insist on a doctor prescribing antibiotics, and healthcare providers need to use discretion when prescribing.

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