Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Make sure your medicine works when you need it: Get smart about antibiotics!

Picture this: You’re coughing and sneezing. Not sure if you have a cold or the flu, you head to the bathroom and open the medicine cabinet. Checking through the bottles of pills, you find some antibiotics. Should you take them?

The answer is NO. You could be doing more harm than good! Here’s why:
  • Colds and the flu are caused by viruses. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses.
  • Taking an antibiotic when you should be taking some other kind of medication can lead to something called antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria are exposed to an antibiotic medication so much that they figure out how to survive around the medication. This means that medications that treat all kinds of infections won’t work any more. 
  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the most serious public health threats around the world, and it’s becoming more common. 
The good news is that you can help to fight antibiotic resistance. Nov. 12-18 is Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, which was created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help educate the public about antibiotics so they can make smart choices when it comes to taking medications. Here are five tips to protect your health:
  1. Do not take antibiotics for a viral infection like a cold, the flu or a runny nose. Here is a chart from CDC to help you figure out if you might have a viral infection. If you’re sick, the best thing to do is to call or make an appointment with your health care provider.
  2. Do not ask for antibiotics for you or your child if your doctor says you don’t need them.
  3. Do not take antibiotics that were prescribed for other people or for other kinds of infections. The antibiotic might not treat the illness that you have, so you could get sicker.
  4. If your health care provider prescribes an antibiotic, take it exactly as they tell you. Finish the whole dose even if you start feeling better before the medication runs out. Don’t skip doses and don’t save medication for the next time you or someone else gets sick.
  5. Wash your hands to prevent infections. (Check out our fact sheets for great handwashing information!) Make sure to wash with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel. Regular soap and water are fine, but avoid soaps and cleaners that say “antibacterial” on the label. These products usually have an antibiotic called triclosan, which may contribute to antibiotic resistance.
For more information to help you get smart about antibiotics, check out this Healthy You fact sheet from The Nation’s Health: Antibiotics: Know when they’re not needed. Feel free to share this with friends, family and coworkers too – Everyone has to get smart about antibiotics so that the medications work when we really need them!

If you use Twitter, join us on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 1 p.m. EST for a Twitter chat about antibiotics. Experts from the CDC will be there to answer your questions. Follow @CDC_eHealth and @GetReady to join in, and don’t forget to use the tag #SaveAbx.

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