Antibiotic Resistance: What You Need to Know
Antibiotics have saved millions of lives and reduced the spread of infection since their discovery 70 year ago. However, because these drugs have been used widely and for so long, the bacteria the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective – this is known as antibiotic resistance. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Therefore, it is important that both patients and health care practitioners do what we can to help keep new resistance from developing and to prevent current resistance from spreading.
One of the things that we all can do is make sure we use antibiotics the right way. Often when we are sick, the illness is caused by a virus, which antibiotics cannot cure. Common illnesses such as colds, bronchitis, and most sore throats are caused by viruses. Taking antibiotics when you have a virus can increase your chance of getting an infection that resists antibiotic treatment in the future. Instead, ask your pharmacists or primary care practitioner what you can do to treat the symptoms, such as a sore throat, runny nose, or cough. If you do get a bacterial infection and your medical practitioner prescribes you an antibiotic, make sure you finish the whole course of medication, even if you start to feel better after a few days. This ensures you kill all of the bacteria in your body that caused the infection, so it cannot return and become resistant to the antibiotic.
To help protect yourself and families members from antibiotic resistant infections and infections in general, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following:
- Regular hand cleaning. This helps remove germs, helps to reduce the spread of any bacteria to other people, and can help you avoid getting sick.
- Stay up to date on your vaccinations. It is much easier to prevent a disease than it is to treat it, so ask your primary care practitioner if you are due for any vaccines at your next physical.
- Practice food safety at home. This includes cooking food to the right temperature separating raw meat from other foods, and making sure to clean kitchen surfaces often.
- If you are traveling and are worried about infections or any kind of illness, especially if you are traveling overseas, check with your primary care practitioner to see if you need any extra vaccinations or if there are any precautions you should take.
For more information about antibiotic resistance, visit http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/index.html