Antibiotics can help save lives. When a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects and antibiotic resistance. However, when antibiotics are over-prescribed or used improperly, it helps create the potential for bacteria to become antibiotic resistant. Antibiotic resistant infections can be difficult, if not impossible, to treat.
Ways you can help reduce antibiotic resistance:
- Antibiotics do NOT treat viruses, like those that cause colds, flus or COVID-19.
- 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 provider about the best way to feel better while your body fights off the virus.
- Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria, but even some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics. Antibiotics are not needed for many sinus infections and some ear infections. Antifungal drugs treat fungal infections.
- If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your healthcare professional if you have questions about your antibiotic. It's important to complete the antibiotic cycle, meaning even if you feel better after a few days, you need to finish the entire regimen as prescribed.
- Talk with your healthcare professional if you develop any side effects - especially severe diarrhea, since that could be a Clostridioides difficile (or C. diff) infection, which needs to be treated promptly.
Why it is important to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance:
- Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to public health.
- More than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the United States each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.
- In addition, 223,900 cases of Clostridioides difficile occurred in 2017 and at least 12,800 people died.
- Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics; it means bacteria that live in and on our bodies develop the ability to defeat the antibiotics designed to kill them.
- When bacteria become resistant, antibiotics cannot fight them, and the bacteria multiply.
- Antibiotic-resistant germs can quickly spread - including communities, the food supply, healthcare facilities, the environment (e.g. soil, water), and around the world.
The best way to stay healthy? Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-percent alcohol. Also cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; stay home when sick; get recommended vaccines, such as the flu vaccine.