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How To Protect Yourself From Antibiotic Resistance

While antibiotics save lives every day, antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health. Dr. Raghavendra Tirupathi, Medical Director of Keystone Infectious Diseases, shares important information about antibiotic resistance and what you can do to protect yourself.

Why is antibiotic resistance an important topic?

When you take an antibiotic, some of the bacteria in your body can build an immunity to the drug. These bacteria can then multiply, and cause your body to no longer respond to the antibiotic. This leads to 23,000 deaths annually in the United States alone. When a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits outweigh the risks. However, it’s important to make sure you use them correctly.

When it is OK to take antibiotics?

Antibiotics aren’t always the answer. They are only used for treating certain illnesses caused by bacteria. If you have an ailment caused by a virus, antibiotics are not useful and will not help you feel better. Some of these illnesses include colds and the flu – even if your mucus is thick, yellow or green. Bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections sometimes require antibiotics, but a prescription is not always necessary. Your healthcare provider can assess whether you need antibiotics, and if you don’t, give you advice about how to feel better while your body fights off the virus naturally. When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you but can hurt you.

What are some ways to feel better when I don’t need antibiotics?

Getting rest and drinking plenty of fluids is always important when you’re sick. For upper respiratory infections (including sinus infections, ear infections, colds and bronchitis), tips include: using saline nasal spray or drops, avoiding smoking and secondhand smoke, breathing in steam from a hot bowl of water or shower, taking an over-the-counter pain reliever or decongestant (make sure to follow directions carefully) and a warm, moist cloth over aching sinuses or ears.

For sore throats, you can drink warm beverages, gargle with salt water, use sore throat spray, and suck on ice chips, popsicles or lozenges (for those not at risk of choking). For coughs, humidifiers or vaporizers, breathing in steam, lozenges and honey may provide some relief. (Never give honey to a child under 1 year of age.)

What can I do to protect myself from antibiotic resistance?

If your illness does require antibiotics, make sure you take them exactly as prescribed. This includes finishing the entire dosage, even if you are feeling better. Your healthcare provider should prescribe you the shortest duration of antibiotics necessary. You should talk to your doctor if you have any questions or develop side effects to your antibiotics, including diarrhea, as it could be a sign of infection.

It’s important to never share antibiotics, to keep yourself and others healthy by practicing good hygiene (washing your hands frequently, covering coughs, staying home when sick, etc.), and getting recommended vaccinations, including the flu vaccine.

Everyone can help improve antibiotic prescribing and use. Improving the way healthcare providers prescribe antibiotics, and the way we take antibiotics, is imperative. Proper usage will help us keep healthy now, help fight antibiotic resistance, and help make sure that these life-saving antibiotics will be available for future generations.

 

This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or care by a qualified health care provider.