Friday, October 03, 2008

Get smart before using antibiotics

True or false? Taking antibiotics can help cure the common cold, flu or bronchitis.

False. All of the above are caused by viruses, and antibiotics do not help fight viruses. In fact, taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good.

How? Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Taking antibiotics when you don't need them or not as prescribed (which means taking all of your medicine even if you feel better) increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment. Yet, each year, health care providers in the United States prescribe tens of millions of antibiotics for viral infections.

To bring attention to this growing problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and partners like the American Public Health Association will be observing Get Smart About Antibiotics Week Oct. 6-10. The campaign will help educate the public about antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use.

As we enter cold and flu season, it's important to remember not to insist on antibiotics for treatment when seeing your doctor. If you have a cold or the flu, antibiotics won’t work. Rest and drink plenty of fluids.

And also remember the adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Try to avoid getting sick in the first place by washing your hands regularly, avoiding people who are sick and getting your flu shot.

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