Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Knowing when antibiotics work — and when they don’t

From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
It’s Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, an annual event promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The week teaches people how to use antibiotics the right way and draws attention to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics are crucial for treating and curing bacterial infections, and it’s very important to use them exactly as your doctor advises. This means that you should only take the prescribed dose and complete the full course of an antibiotic, even if you feel better before you run out of medication. Otherwise, you may get re-infected by bacteria that’s still inside you.

We tend to think that antibiotics work for every illness, when actually they don’t. Antibiotics only work against infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics don’t work against infections caused by viruses. The flu and common colds are caused by viruses, so those sniffles and aches aren’t going to be cured by an antibiotic.

Using antibiotics when they aren’t needed can be harmful. If they aren’t used correctly, antibiotics can stop working. In fact, some diseases that were treatable with antibiotics have already become resistant to them, meaning they don’t work as well as they should, or worse, don’t work at all. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed or misusing them also increases the risk that an infection you get later will resist antibiotic treatment.

CDC has more tips for using antibiotics wisely:
  • Get smart about what kinds of upper respiratory infections are usually caused by viruses and can’t be cured with an antibiotic.
  • Take antibiotics only if they’re prescribed to you. Don’t share and or use leftover antibiotics.
  • Don’t save your antibiotics for the next time you get sick. Properly dispose of any leftover medication once your prescribed dose is complete.
  • Prevent infections by practicing good hygiene, such as frequent hand-washing, and getting recommended vaccines.
  • Don’t ask for antibiotics when your doctor doesn’t think you need them. Antibiotics have side effects, and taking them when they’re not essential may do you more harm than good.
Now that you know how to be smart about antibiotics, spread the word! Send a CDC e-card, add a logo to your website and read this helpful tip sheet from APHA.

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