The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is observing U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week November 18-24, 2019 as a way to improve antibiotic prescribing and use.
Antibiotics are an important part of our toolkit in fighting infections and preventing the development of sepsis. When used correctly, they save lives, but when used inappropriately, they can lead to the development of resistance. It is estimated that up to 30% of the antibiotics prescribed on an outpatient (clinic) setting are done so unnecessarily.
When bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, especially when they are not used for a bacterial infection, the bacteria present in the body can develop ways to outsmart the antibiotics. The ability of bacteria to defeat the drugs made to kill them is antibiotic resistance. In the United States, it is estimated that 2 million people become infected with bacteria resistant to antibiotics each year. More alarming, at least 23,000 people die as a direct result annually. In addition to the development of antibiotic resistance, antibiotic use can also lead to several side effects or complications. One of the most dreaded complications is the development of Clostridioides difficile infection, an infection that can lead to severe diarrhea, sepsis, or even death.
Did you know?
- Antibiotics aren’t always the answer. Everyone can help improve antibiotic prescribing and use. Improving the way healthcare professionals prescribe antibiotics, and the way we take antibiotics helps keep us healthy now, helps fight antibiotic resistance, and ensures that these lifesaving antibiotics will be available for future generations.
- Antibiotics save lives. When a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits outweigh the risk of side effects and antibiotic resistance.
- Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as those that cause colds, flu, bronchitis, or runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow, or green.
- Antibiotics are only needed for treating infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics. Antibiotics aren’t needed for many sinus infections and some ear infections.
- An antibiotic will not make you feel better if you have a virus. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment. Ask your healthcare professional about the best way to feel better while your body fights off the virus.
- When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and the side effects could still cause harm. Side effects range from minor to very severe health problems. When you need antibiotics for a bacterial infection, then the benefits usually outweigh the risk of side effects.
- Taking antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them.
- If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about your antibiotics.
- Talk with your doctor if you develop any side effects, especially severe diarrhea, since that could be a Clostridioides difficile ( difficile or C. diff) infection, which needs to be treated.
- Do your best to stay healthy and keep others healthy by cleaning hands, covering coughs, staying home when sick, and getting recommended vaccines, such as the flu vaccine.