Misuse and overuse of antibiotics has led to decreased effectiveness of antibiotics because of the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to them. If you take antibiotics and don't need them, the drugs lose their ability to kill bacteria when you need them. You can help preserve antibiotics' effectiveness:
- Get plenty of rest, fluids, exercise, and eat a balanced and health diet.
- Never take antibiotics for viral infections like colds or flu.
- Don't insist on an antibiotic if your doctor doesn't think one is necessary.
- If you are prescribed an antibiotic, follow the instructions as listed on the label and COMPLETE the entire course of the prescription, even if you are feeling better.
- Wash your hands often. Regular soap is just as effective as antibacterial soap.
- If you have children, check with your pediatrician to make sure their immunizations are up to date.
Pressing Your Doctor for Antibiotics Not Worth the Risk
From the GIC Fall 2001 Newsletter
Cold and flu season will soon be here. And with it, the desire to have the corresponding misery eliminated. If your doctor says that you, or your child, do not need an antibiotic, don't press him or her for one. Although it is discouraging to leave a doctor's office without "a cure-all", know your doctor is doing you a favor by not prescribing an antibiotic. In fact, prescribing an antibiotic for a virus can put you at risk for illnesses from bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics because of overuse.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one-third of outpatient antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary. Overexposure to antibiotics kills benign bacteria, creating more opportunity for resistant bacteria to grow. As a result, diseases that once were easily curable are now difficult to treat or can even be fatal.
Some examples: In the 1980s only 5% of streptococcus pneumonia (which causes cystitis, bronchitis, and ear infections) was resistant to penicillin. Now 25% to 30% of these infections are resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (Staph infection) is now common in American hospitals. The United States, Canada, and Europe have had outbreaks of drug-resistant salmonella food poisoning.
Lower your risk for antibiotic resistance:
- Don't press your doctor for antibiotics to treat viral infections; get rest, fluids, and over-the-counter painkillers recommended by your doctor.
- When prescribed an antibiotic, take all of the medication - don't quit when you start feeling better.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, before and after preparing foods, and before eating - and get your kids to do the same thing!
- Don't reuse an unwashed raw meat plate; avoid undercooked meat.
- Wash raw fruits and vegetables.
For additional information on antibiotic resistance, see the Centers for Disease Control's site.
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.