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Focusing on antibiotic resistance

Published in For the Health of It Author: Kristina Lelcu,MD Author: Kristina Lelcu, MD

This week is U.S. Antibiotics Awareness Week. The phrase “antibiotics awareness” alone seems strange. Of course, antibiotics have been one important way public health has improved over the past century. But while antibiotics continue to save lives, antibiotic resistance — bacteria developing the ability to defeat the antibiotics designed to kill them — now has become an urgent public health threat.

Each year in this country, at least 2 million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And thousands of people die as a result.

Consider the following:

  • Antibiotics aren’t always the answer. When someone needs antibiotics, the health care provider has decided that the benefits they offer outweigh the risks of side effects and antibiotic resistance.
  • Antibiotics do not work on viruses. This includes the ones that cause colds or flu. An antibiotic will not make you feel better if you have a virus.
  • Taking antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. When bacteria become resistant, antibiotics cannot fight them and the bacteria multiply. Resistant bacteria can be hard or impossible to treat and can spread to other people.
  • If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your provider if you have any questions about your antibiotics.
  • When taking antibiotics, talk with your health care provider if you develop any side effects. In particular, severe diarrhea could be a sign of an infection which needs to be treated.

If you ever see your health care provider for an illness, and he or she doesn’t provide you an antibiotic or gives you a different medication than what you expect — antibiotic resistance may be one of the reasons.

Improving the way antibiotics are prescribed, and how we take them, helps fight antibiotic-resistance. And it helps ensure that these life-saving drugs will be available for a long time to come.

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